Multi-team championships have their twists and turns. Form oscillates, predictions turn into dust, defending champions get ejected like it happened with Australia and the minnows can hurt, as South Africa and England learnt it the hard way from the Netherlands and Ireland respectively.
To stand firm within this churn demands consistency and the will to prevail. India ticked those boxes as it topped Group 2 and made it to the semifinals of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup. The Men in Blue qualified on the basis of fine performances rather than lean on permutations and combinations that is linked to other squads and their results. There was a loss against South Africa but it is par for the course in a tournament that hinges on the round-robin format before it leads up to the knockouts.
New Zealand, England, India and Pakistan qualified in that order from the two groups, for the last-four. The stage is set for Wednesday’s semifinal at Sydney pitting New Zealand against Pakistan and Thursday’s semifinal at Adelaide offering a face-off between India and England. This is the tournament’s tipping point as one loss means the erasure of dreams.
Rohit Sharma’s men did well to last the distance so far and in every clash, heroes popped up. If Virat Kohli has been the batting spine, Suryakumar Yadav is the lightning rod striking at will. Against Zimbabwe at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday, he was alert to Craig Ervine’s field-placements. The Zimbabwe skipper tried to protect the arc between square-leg and fine-leg but the gifted batter tipped over the fielder’s head or threaded fours through the minutest of gaps.
Suryakumar’s willow has an innate sense of geometry. Fresh angles are found, the batting crease becomes a platform for some ballet as the star moves around, either to drill one through the off-side or shuffle across and pull towards the on-side or flip one over the perplexed wicket-keeper. Even if K.L. Rahul had struck a 51, it was Suryakumar, who granted impetus to the innings with Hardik Pandya lending a hand.
Later after Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh made early inroads, R. Ashwin prised out three wickets while his fellow spinner Axar Patel leaked runs but had the consolation of scalping the last batter. The Rishabh Pant for Dinesh Karthik swap may not have clicked in terms of enhancing batting resources but as the management insists, judgement won’t be passed instantaneously.
The morning after sealing their semifinal berth, the Men in Blue had no time to order breakfast in bed. They flew to Adelaide and at the airport, some fans broke into impromptu songs in English and Hindi with the lyrics being linked to the names of the players ranging from Kohli to Yuzvendra Chahal. If the former offered a quick wave, the latter grinned and left.
This symbiosis between the stars and their die-hard followers will be again on display at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday and may ripple across to Melbourne, depending on Rohit’s men qualifying for the summit clash. Hope floats.