If you had read tournament previews and predictions before the start of Champions Trophy 2017, almost none of them would have foretold that three out of the four semi-finalists would be from the subcontinent.
If anyone had predicted that two of them would be Bangladesh and Pakistan, ranked sixth and eighth respectively in the ICC rankings before this tournament, they would have been dismissed forthwith.
It would have been as likely as DC coming up with a satisfactory film at par with Marvel, rather than the substandard fare they were feeding us in an already over-saturated superhero movie market.
But then Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot, happened.
So, here we are at the semi-final stage of ICC’s ‘Mini World Cup’ without the usual suspects: South Africa, Australia and New Zealand (who were the top-ranked teams before the tournament).
India meet Bangladesh in the second semi-final on Thursday after Pakistan stunned England in the first semi-final on Wednesday.
So, if India must avoid an incredible defeat at the hands of the 'Tigers', here are five players who will be key:
Fellow opener KL Rahul’s shoulder injury opened the door for Dhawan in the team and the left-hander’s love affair with ICC ODI tournaments continues. In Sunday’s virtual quarter-final against South Africa, he became the fastest to score 1,000 runs in ICC ODI tournaments taking just 16 innings to reach the milestone. He’s already scored three consecutive 50s in this edition of the Champions Trophy. What does he have in store for us in the semi-final?
What is Justice League without Superman? Indian batting's mainstay deservedly reclaimed the top spot in ICC’s ODI rankings for batsmen, ahead of the semi-final. Yes, he has had stiff competition from Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and David Warner in the recent past, but few would disagree he’s the most complete one-day batsman. He has already scored two sparkling half-centuries in the tournament and surely, he is due a big one. It would hardly be surprising if he got his 28th ODI hundred to lead India to a win in the all-important semi-final against Bangladesh. If he does score a ton, he would equal the tally of Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya, who took more than double the innings to achieve the feat. Staggering!
Kohli may be the best batsman in the Indian team and Dhawan one of the most productive in ICC one-day tournaments, but Yuvraj Singh is still India's supreme game-changer. He hit the ball clean and long against Pakistan and showed glimpses of the vintage Yuvraj, one of modern cricket commentary's most beloved cliches. One of Bangladesh’s principal weapons is Shakib Al Hasan but if he’s called upon when Yuvraj is on strike, it will be, if I may use another of those commentary clichés, carnage!
Before he became a household name, Bumrah got his break in the 2013 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) when Mumbai Indians played Royal Challengers Bangalore at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. After three of his first four deliveries were smashed for boundaries by his current India skipper, Bumrah swung the fifth delivery sharply to get Kohli out lbw. Since then, in a span of four years, he has evolved into not only an economical wicket-taker but India's go-to bowler at the 'death'. He is unflappable even under big game pressure and Bangladesh batsmen will find it hard to tackle a man with a maverick bowling action, short run-up, brisk pace and awkward angles.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has made more people dance to the tunes of an approaching ball than Johann Strauss' Blue Danube. His ability to make the ball hoop around corners consistently is crucial to India's chances of defending their title. He has been India's most economical bowler this tournament and his skills were manifest in the match against South Africa when he tied down the Adam Gilchrist-esque Quinton de Kock and the peerless Amla with an exacting opening spell. He will play a crucial part in keeping the in-form Tamim Iqbal quiet and his potent death bowling skills will see to it that Bangladesh won't get away in the slog overs.
If the aforementioned five play their part, India should script an easy victory over Bangladesh to reach the Champions Trophy 2017 final. Or can the 'Tigers' negate this five-fold threat and boldly go where no Bangladeshi has gone before?
Updated Date: Jun 15, 2017 13:08 PM