With the game meandering to the finish-line, the M Chinnaswamy Stadium DJ went retro to entertain the near capacity crowd. “Ek, do, teen,” blared the speakers from the 1988 movie, Tezaab. At some level, Rohit Sharma would have also been thinking on the same lines. He would have quietly said ‘nine done, ten and eleven waiting’ as India ticked another box, against the Netherlands, just as their coach Rahul Dravid had demanded on the match eve. With nine out of nine wins, the most for an Indian team at a single edition of the World Cup, they have now finished half the job. The next one, the semi-final against New Zealand at the Wankhede on Wednesday, cannot come any sooner.
On a Sunday evening where thick smog with the smell of cracker-dust hung in the Bengaluru air, the Men in Blue stood tall. But despite making 410/4 with the bat on the back of centuries from Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul – two batsmen who were doubtful starters at the World Cup because of injuries – this wasn’t as clinical as some of their previous wins. It was mostly down to the bowling unit that had wasted no time to blow the likes of England, Sri Lanka and South Africa under lights, appearing to take it a bit lightly here, taking 47.5 overs to bowl the Dutch for 250.
Drop in intensity
Maybe, with a humongous total on board that was beyond the reach of the Netherlands, the Indian attack didn’t intend to go full throttle and were saving every ounce of energy for Wednesday. There was a definite drop in the intensity they had displayed in the previous eight matches. That Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill, Suryakumar Yadav and Rohit Sharma bowled 7.4 overs between them on the night showed how they wanted to keep their fast bowlers fresh for New Zealand as there is only a 48-hour turn-around before the semi-final.
Follow all the action from the Cricket World Cup 2023 on our special World Cup section. You can also find the latest stats, like the top scorer and the highest wicket-taker of the current edition, upcoming World Cup fixtures and the points table on the site.
There was an instance when Kuldeep Yadav put in a valiant dive at the deep to save a boundary, only for vice-captain KL Rahul signalling him to take it slow. It made sense, but as far as this fixture goes, their lack of cutting edge to go with a below-par fielding took a bit of gloss from their historic feat at the World Cup.
Skipper Rohit Sharma, though, said he was content with the team’s showing.“Since we started the tournament, it was all about one game at a time. We never wanted to look too far ahead. It is a long tournament, 11 games in all if we go all the way. It was important to break it down and focus on it. We focused on one game. We are playing in different venues and play accordingly and that’s what we did. Pleased at how we’ve played in these nine games. Very clinical from game one to the one here,” he said.
Happy Diwali 2023: Wishes, Images, Status, Quotes, Messages, Wallpapers, Photos, and Cards
Pakistani fisherman becomes millionaire overnight after selling rare fish
He also dwelled on how different individuals had stepped up to different challenges. “Different individuals have stepped up and put their hand up and done the job. Everyone wanted to take the responsibility. Playing in different venues, it was a challenge. We adapted really well. We started the tournament four games in a row chasing, and then we had to bat first and the pacers did the job along with the spinners. The result do matter to keep the dressing room lively,” he said.
With the bat, though, India were merciless on a placid surface. As has been the case in the tournament, openers Rohit and Gill set the tempo, scoring 91 runs in the first powerplay, and from thereon, it virtually became a leather hunt for the Dutch. Though Rohit, Gill and Kohli – who all looked good to complete three figures – threw away their wicket in the middle-overs, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul benefitted from the overs left to construct two contrasting centuries.
Having come into the tournament with little game time, that the two not only applied themselves here but also played with authority in the middle-overs as well as the death, means India go into the clash against the Kiwis with all their batsmen in good form and high confidence. Despite making notable performances before, the only thing that has eluded the Indian middle-order is centuries. If Rahul was left stranded at 99 against Australia, against Sri Lanka and South Africa Shreyas ran out of gas in the final stretch. But not over here as both notched up centuries that would have given the Indian dressing room more reasons to smile before they board the flight to Mumbai.