Bright sunshine dappling on the grass, a cathedral lending a solemn air, ducks preferring the slow-life on River Torrens that skirts around the Adelaide Oval and out in the middle, the roller was pressing the turf. This was the calm before the storm as the venue geared up for Thursday’s ICC Twenty20 World Cup semifinal.
India and England throw up historical threads harking back to the Empire-colony duopoly, spice trade, tea and the plunder of the Kohinoor. And the cricketing backstory is equally riveting. Be it the triumph over the host in the 1983 World Cup semifinal in England, Graham Gooch sweeping India away in the 1987 World Cup semifinal at Mumbai, Bombay then; or Yuvraj Singh launching Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over during the inaugural 2007 ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa, this is a rivalry that had its moments in white-ball cricket.
Another chapter will be added when Rohit Sharma and Jos Buttler step out for the toss. A semifinal will usher in extreme pressure as knockouts always unleash a thousand butterflies in queasy stomachs. India has the momentum, riding on batting supremacy and largely effective bowlers while England bats deep and has the pacers to test the best.
Chahal for Ashwin?
At Wednesday’s pre-match nets, while former England captain, doughty opener and acclaimed sports writer Michael Atherton watched, Virat Kohli flexed his bat and unleashed a few shots. In another corner reserve-player Shardul Thakur employed the slog-sweep against R. Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal. The management was factoring in the venue’s short-square boundaries and letting the spinners get a feel of what may be in store. A few fans walked in, a conch was blown, and the India vibe was in vogue.
Whether leg-spinner Chahal will get a game is yet to be known while there is also the option of stretching the batting at the expense of Axar Patel. It is also an indication of how far Suryakumar Yadav has progressed that no press conference gets a sense of closure until one of the correspondents raises a question about his fearless batting.
Meanwhile, England has its share of selection headaches as Dawid Malan looks doubtful following an injury, and Mark Wood has a niggle. The batting hasn’t fired in unison, and even Ben Stokes found his runs only in the last game involving Sri Lanka. However, it is creditable that England overcame the shock loss to Ireland and ploughed on to reach the last-four stage. Left-arm seamer and all-rounder Sam Curran and Buttler, if he gets a start like Bangladesh’s Litton Das did, can affect the best-laid plans of the Men in Blue.
The weather could play a role as briefly some clouds rolled in while Rohit’s men did their fielding drills. But overall there is a feel of a summer that demands wide-brimmed hats and out on the field, the rivals will try to grab their share of the sun and sparkle their way into Sunday’s climax at Melbourne.