Having decimated six oppositions without much trouble, India’s real title defence starts with a tricky quarter-final clash against a confident Bangladesh in the ICC Cricket World Cup, here on Thursday.
India with their power-packed performance throughout the past one month have emerged as worthy contenders for retaining the Cup alongside former champions Australia and co-hosts New Zealand.
However the format of the tournament is such that the real test starts from the knock-out stages, which means that effectively three matches can ensure the Cup as qualification for the last eight was a foregone conclusion.
However to India’s credit, the initial momentum that they seized after crushing Pakistan in the first game stayed with them throughout the league phase.
South Africa were blown away, UAE were no match, West Indies at best gave a scare, Ireland got pummeled and Zimbabwe never had the bowling to shake India up.
So convincing has been India’s performance in the six matches so far that Bangladesh, at least on paper, do not even have the slightest of chance at the MCG.
But then ‘Cricket is a game of Glorious Uncertainties’. The tiny nation has shown the gumption to fight it out having shown England the door and gave the ‘Black Caps’ a run for their money.
Call it irony but Bangladesh unwittingly made a contribution towards ICC trying out this current format in World Cup after they shocked India in the 2007 edition in a round robin match at Port of Spain.
With only skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni being the surviving member of that 2007 team that was trampled under relentless pressure, the current team does not have anyone, who has scars of that defeat.
So Mashrafe Mortaza and his boys can prove to be the proverbial ‘banana peel’ on which Dhoni and his boys can slip.
As the tournament reaches its business end, the margin for error is now nil and that is what will demand double the intensity from Dhoni’s side with the Cup now firmly in sight.
Qualitatively, Bangladesh are no match for India, who are certainly overwhelming favourites going into the match.
Player by player, India are quite a few notches above their opposition. Bangladesh will be hoping dearly that their formidable opposition have a bad day in office which they can cash in.