AUCKLAND:There’s been some talk against the ICC plan to reduce number of teams to 10 from the next World Cup. While associate nations rightly feel they’d be wronged if the move takes off, for people following the Indian team in Australia and New Zealand this might be the way ahead. Too many matches against oppositions unable to live up to expectations can dilute a competition of this stature and after UAE and Ireland, Saturday will see Zimbabwe cut India’s path.
The troubled African nation has had some encouraging results in the last few years, sans consistency. Out of reckoning for a knockout berth, they have to play out of their skin to make things competitive for a team firing on all cylinders. More than results, it’s how you play matters, say pundits. Even going by that, there aren’t too many positives in the Zimbabwean cabinet. They usually follow up one bright outing with several lows and against a team coming good in every department, face what would be their toughest test this time.
That said, a match is not won until it has been. Runs will have to be scored, wickets and catches must be taken. The points won’t be home until the job is done and in that context, Indians have work to do, no matter how easy it seems from the other side of the fence. “Be it Australia or Zimbabwe, we can’t take any team lightly. Sometimes, reputations don’t matter and irrespective of who we are playing, plans have to be executed. There’s scope to get better as team and individuals,” said Mohammed Shami.
Going by the number of fans present to watch the team train at Eden Park, even this match seems to have generated a lot of interest. Despite being a working day, there were about a hundred at the nets and indications are, at least 75 per cent of the capacity of 42,000 will be full. That’s no insignificant number for a dead rubber, which has no bearing on the destinations of either side. With MS Dhoni hinting after the previous match they are against experimenting, expect India to give it their best.
“In international cricket, there’s no comfort zone. Although we’ve done well so far, there have been mistakes and each game is a chance to correct those. So what if we’ve reached the quarterfinals! Our focus will be on minimising errors and maintaining the momentum we’ve found. As a team we have a few goals and there are personal expectations as well. This match gives us a chance to move closer to those,” said India’s leading wicket-taker so far in this World Cup (12 from five matches).
After failing to do what he’d been picked for in the run up to the World Cup, Shami has led a remarkable turnaround in bowling. Making short work of lesser teams, bowlers have responded well also against South Africa or Pakistan and this unit has bowled out the opposition in all five matches. The only 250-plus total against them came at a smaller ground in Hamilton and even in that match, bowlers pulled things back after Ireland looked like getting more than they eventually did.
Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor was quick to acknowledge this side of the Indian tale. “We all know how much a powerhouse they are in batting, but they certainly hold their own with the ball. They have proven spinners who’ve done well irrespective of conditions. Even the new ball bowlers have struck early and they’re bowling at good pace. It’ll be challenging for us. Not just the pace, but also the swing they’re producing.” Inconsequential match alright. There’s still something to play for, from both sides.