Kolkata: Indian skipper Virat Kohli had a lucky 33rd birthday as he finally won his 1st toss in the T20 World Cup on Friday. Soon, the Men in Blue gave him the most one-sided win of the tournament as a gift as India showcased their potential and strength with a vengeance. A fabulous all-round show was a sign of how deeply hurt the players are at the prospect of being eliminated before the Semis. If the last match was a thrashing of Afghanistan, this one was a merciless murder of cricketing minnows Scotland – the entire match lasted less than 25 overs. India won by 8 wickets with 81 balls to spare.
Before this game, India had never played Scotland in a completed T20 international. In the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, they were to open their campaign against Scotland but the game was washed off without any play. While the Friday fiesta was a display of what the Indian team could do when they execute their skills to perfection, Indian cricket fans will hope that the game doesn’t prove to be inconsequential in the larger scheme of this World Cup.
At the start of the match, both teams had plenty to prove. India had a clear target of bettering their net run rate and giving themselves an outside chance to qualify for the semi-finals. Scotland on the other hand would have loved to be giant slayers and catch the attention of the cricketing world. In their previous game against New Zealand, Scotland had shown a steely resolve for a fight which meant that India couldn’t take them lightly.
It wasn’t just the toss but Virat also got the team combination right for this game. Shardul Thakur was left out and Varun Chakravarty was brought in to bolster the spin attack. The bowlers were impressive from the start and pegged the Scots back. Bumrah has been the most consistent bowler for India in this tournament and he struck the first blow. Shami also gained confidence from the previous match and got a wicket in his first over.
It was an impressive show by Ravindra Jadeja which was most heartening and won him the Man of the Match award. He has been India’s best all-rounder for some time and when the pitch is gripping and giving a slight turn, as he analyses, he becomes unplayable. Jadeja grabbed 3 wickets for 15 runs in his quota of 4 overs. Ashwin too chipped in with a wicket. Between them, the spin trio took 4 wickets for 59 runs in 11 overs.
Later, Shami and Bumrah returned with a barrage of yorkers and cleaned up the Scotland tail quickly to set up a small chase of 86 runs. This was precisely what India needed to improve their net run rate. They had to get the total in 43 balls to surpass Afghanistan and New Zealand’s net run rate.
Inevitably, Rohit and Rahul came out all guns blazing and thrashed the Scottish bowling attack to pieces. In no time, India got to 82 in 6 overs which was the highest powerplay score in the entire tournament and contrasts sharply with 36-3 vs Pakistan and 35-2 vs New Zealand. Given their belligerence, India earned a resounding win in just 6.3 overs.
Despite the stellar show, India’s destiny in the World Cup is still not in its own hands. They have done everything possible in the last 2 games but the disaster in the first two games casts a dark shadow over excellent performances now. For the moment Cricket’s glorious uncertainties are India’s biggest hope. If Afghanistan pulls off a shocker against the Kiwis, India has a chance. Otherwise, India’s next game against Namibia will be quite meaningless.
As India hopes and prays for Afghanistan to surprise New Zealand on Sunday, there is little that one can anticipate about that crucial clash as the Afghans and the Kiwis will be playing their first-ever T20I against each other on November 7. In the absence of a T20I, there are no numbers to pick a favourite between the two sides. Of course, it goes without saying that the Kiwis are a far better squad on paper than Afghanistan no matter what the format.
The nature of Sport, however, is such that the Afghans shouldn’t be underestimated, especially since they have lots of experience of playing in Abu Dhabi. Though the Kiwis had lost their only T20I at this venue, the Afghans have won nine of their 12 T20Is here. This is a record that Indian fans can cling on to as they pray for a miracle.
Ultimately, it’s the players who will get the flak in case India fails to get to the Semis. But BCCI honchos need to be questioned about the huge overdose of IPL cricket just ahead of the T20 World Cup especially given the bio bubble strains. And it doesn’t end there as bizarre scheduling will see India facing New Zealand in a series just 3 days after the World Cup finals!