India vs New Zealand World Cup semis: Rohit Sharma's men are on a mission and the law of averages can go smite itself
Worried about that one bad Indian game being against New Zealand? Don't be.
A lot of Indian fans are worried ahead of their team’s World Cup semi-final against New Zealand at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday. They believe the Indian cricket team’s performance (nine wins in nine games) in the ongoing quadrennial tournament is too good to be true and it won’t be long before the bubble bursts with a bang. There are multiple reasons behind that foreboding.
Four years ago in England, the Indians, against all odds, were beaten by the Kiwis in the semifinals as MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja’s heroics went in vain. Last year, they were beaten by eventual champions England in the World T20 semis in Australia. In the 2016 World T20 semifinal – which also took place at the Wankhede Stadium – India were stunned by the West Indies. Next year, they were thrashed by Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final. In the 2015 World Cup, home side Australia got the better of them in the semis. Finally, in the 2014 World T20, they lost to Sri Lanka in the final in Bangladesh.
Six defeats in ICC-event knockouts in less than a decade. The last time they lifted an ICC trophy was in 2013 when Dhoni became the first captain ever – and the only one to date – to win all three white-ball ICC trophies. 10 years of trophy drought. And when you add two World Test Championship final defeats earlier this year and in 2021 to the picture, fans have every reason to squirm in terror ahead of Wednesday's game.
Besides, some fans and even experts particularly from across the border in Pakistan, are invoking the law of averages and predicting an Indian defeat. They are stunned that a team can win so many games on the trot in such a high-intensity competition. While some don’t know that it’s nothing out of the ordinary and has happened before in World Cups, some, not on the Indian cricket team’s side, have developed selective amnesia. Yes, Australia have twice done it in 2003 and 2007, winning all their matches to the trophy and before that the West Indies in 1975 & 1979 and Sri Lanka in 1996.
If it's happened five times before, why can’t it happen for the sixth time? Rohit Sharma’s men have been under the pump in the tournament on multiple occasions and through sheer reliance, they have turned the tables on their opposition. They have not relied on luck. There are particularly four instances when the hosts have given massive indications that they are onto something.
Against Australia in what was India’s opening game, chasing 200, they were three wickets down with just two runs on the board. They went on to win from that precarious position. Against Pakistan, the bowlers were not exactly at the top of their game in the first half of the innings and Babar Azam’s men were looking good for a 300+ score when Mohammed Siraj’s wicket of the Pakistani captain triggered a shocking collapse. The match against New Zealand, once again they found themselves in a big spot of bother having lost their fifth wicket and still needing 83 to win. Needless to say that even in the absence of Hardik Pandya, who has since been ruled out due to injury, they managed to cross the line. And finally, against England, defending an unimposing 229, they bowled out the defending champions for just 129.
The law of averages can’t be avoided but can certainly be delayed. A tennis player has to win seven games in a row to win a tournament. There are multiple instances in the football World Cup when a team has gone on to win the title undefeated. There have been many boxers who have not lost even once in their entire professional career. So the law of averages is dead and buried there for you. It should not be the talking point.
The kind of ruthlessness India have demonstrated in the tournament whether it’s in bowling, batting or even fielding (with the exception of Siraj), they are overwhelming favourites to win the trophy. They have their destiny in their own hands now. If they lose, they will lose because of poor play. There will be nothing else to blame. The way they have played, in all honesty, it’s unfathomable that they will lose.
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