You’re worried! We know. You’re in fear. Scared that the 10-year-long wait for an ICC title might go up in flames again. Afraid that the dreaded past of the last two World Cups will return to haunt Team India tomorrow against New Zealand in the semifinal. Tensed that the World Cup trophy might slip out of reach despite reaching so close. Doubtful if India will get one past their bogey team in another ICC knockout game! You’re worried; we get it. It’s the same narrative everywhere – social gatherings, X and WhatsApp groups. Influencers are squeezing their creative juices; memers working overtime on Instagram. India up against their chief tormentor. It’s make or break. We get it!
But what if we tell you… don’t. Fear not the prospect of an Indian defeat, the lingering possibility of a batting collapse, the anxiety surrounding the law of averages, or the nagging doubt about whether the formidable bowling attack might endure an off day. What if we assure you that there’s truly nothing to worry about? While it’s natural to sense a few jitters or butterflies in the stomach under the weight of history, there’s genuinely no need to panic. We’ve got this. Scratch that, even better: Rohit Sharma has got this.
ICC Champions Trophy final 2000. 2021 World Test Championship final. 2019 World Cup semifinal. These memories are a bitter pill for the average Indian cricket fan to swallow. Chris Cairns’ counterattacking century overshadowing Sourav Ganguly’s hundred, Kyle Jamieson blowing away the star-studded Indian batting line-up and Martin Guptill’s bullet throw that ended Virat Kohli and Co’s marauding run and MS Dhoni‘s India career. Yeah, that’s quite a weight to bear.
But times have indeed changed. This is not an Indian team dependent on one demi-god, neither will it be batting on seaming and swinging conditions of a Day 1 pitch in Southampton. The tinkering with the Playing XI is a thing of the past. Rohit and Rahul Dravid have crafted a well-oiled, well-rounded machine that seems complete from every angle.
Amid the external factors and background noise come trivia tidbits, like no team has won the World Cup after finishing top in the league stage. Or how in 2015, India remained unbeaten before going down to Australia in the semifinal. But hey! Instead of letting these facts weigh you down, consider a different perspective — look at it as glass half-full. Reflect on moments like 2011, when India became the first team to clinch a World Cup at home; or how Rohit’s India are yet to be tested barring that opening spell by Josh Hazelwood and Mitchell Starc in the first game against Australia.
Look at the margin of victories. Or the fact that India have bowled every opposition in this World Cup. They have scored 350s and 400 batting first, chased down all kinds of totals without even breaking a sweat. This is a team that has the luxury of allowing Kohli, the leading run-scorer of the tournament, to complete his centuries, since Rohit is so brilliantly emulating the Brendon McCullum template from 2015.
If your fear hasn’t subsided yet, think of this. India have been without vice-captain Hardik Pandya for their last five games. Has it made a difference? His absence wasn’t even felt. India’s benched pacer in the first four games, Mohammed Shami has 16 wickets from the next five, including two 5-wicket-hauls. Two of their most exciting youngsters, Shubman Gill and Mohammed Siraj, are yet to hit their full strides. And India’s premier pacer – arguably the current best in the world – Jasprit Bumrah, has made more headlines for exerting relentless pressure than picking wickets.
Historically, India haven’t found defeating New Zealand easy. The BlackCaps have reached the final of the last two ODI World Cups and the semis of the last two T20 World Cups, but this is a team India have beaten, thrice this year for a clean sweep, and just last month in Dharamsala, ending that damn ICC jinx. Talking of hoodoo, another piece of information that has got fans trembling is the venue for the semifinal, Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, where chasing under lights has proven to be a formidable challenge.
With the ball zipping around, what are the chances of Trent Boult and Matt Henry inflicting a top-order collapse? Franky, it doesn’t matter. Because unlike 2019, India have the middle order that can soak pressure. Even if the openers fail, all Kohli, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul have to do is see out the first 20 overs. Rohit has won four tosses so far, and given the bowling attack India possesses, even if New Zealand bat first, the game will be well and truly on.
Winning nine matches in a row, with almost the same Playing XI – is not only a sign of greatness, but invincibility. As for that one bad game that hasn’t come so far, you ask? Brush it aside. Australia did it in 2003 and 2007, and this Indian team is by far the closest to resembling Ricky Ponting’s team of Unstoppables.
Embrace the excitement and believe in Team India!