“From now on, it’s like a knockout for us. If we don’t play well, we can pack up and go back home.”
Captain MS Dhoni’s comment after India’s loss to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy match on Saturday summed up the situation.
India stand on the razor’s edge. To reach the semifinals they must beat Australia on Monday, and to safely get there without depending on mathematical permutations and combinations, also get past West Indies in their final league match.
In the last two Champions Trophy tournaments, India failed to get to the knockout round. This time, given that they are tantalizingly close to the number one position, fans will be less tolerant of a poor performance.
The saving grace of Saturday’s loss was that the batsmen fought hard, not giving up even after an indifferent performance by the bowlers gave Pakistan over 300 runs.
While India versus Pakistan matches arouse the highest passions, the contest to watch now is India versus Australia. If any team consistently put Australia on the defensive in recent years, it was India.
The present Australian team has many inexperienced players and though they won’t fear the big stage, India have many men who can seize the moment. The moment of reckoning is here.