India chase big win against Scotland to keep hopes alive

  • There is no other playing history between India and Scotland. The only time the two teams were due to meet, a league game in the inaugural 2007 World T20 in Durban, the game was washed out.
India's Ravichandran Ashwin, right, celebrates the dismissal of Afghanistan's Najibullah Zadran with captain Virat Kohli during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between India and Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)(AP)
India's Ravichandran Ashwin, right, celebrates the dismissal of Afghanistan's Najibullah Zadran with captain Virat Kohli during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between India and Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)(AP)
Updated on Nov 05, 2021 08:23 AM IST
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India would remember Scotland from their soon-to-be head coach Rahul Dravid’s playing days, when he played for them in 2003 as an overseas professional. There is no other playing history between India and Scotland. The only time the two teams were due to meet, a league game in the inaugural 2007 World T20 in Durban, the game was washed out.

But Scotland gave an ample display of their potential by running New Zealand close in their last World Cup match. That would have convinced India not to think of them as pushovers, certainly not in this format. India will be chasing a win by a substantive margin against the Scots in Dubai on Friday to keep their semi-final hopes alive, should Afghanistan do them a favour by upsetting New Zealand. The Kiwis themselves are gearing up for their Friday afternoon match against Namibia, not wanting to falter. “I think the nature of each group being very tight, run rate is going to play a part. I guess for us it's just about winning the next two games and we're through,” New Zealand spinner Mitchell Santner said in his pre-match media conference.

By beginning the World Cup with two back-to-back defeats, India’s path to the knock-outs has become uncertain, but there still remains plenty of interest around each of the Group 2 encounters to be played this weekend. “It's a funny game, and Afghanistan have played good cricket. A lot of our hopes rest with them as well. All the very best to them. I really wish if we could provide any physio support to Mujeeb (ur Rahman, the spinner nursing a niggle) to get him on the park, and that is all we can hope for,” Ravichandran Ashwin said in jest.

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Afghanistan are keen to beat New Zealand in their final league match, but not to favour India. Their task is to finish with a good enough net run rate that leaves India and New Zealand behind. “We will just try our best as a team to keep the same process against New Zealand in the next game and play with a fresh mind. That could be like a quarterfinal for us as well,” said Afghanistan’s ace spinner Rashid Khan.

It’s a mad scramble in the world event to become the second qualifiers from a group in which only Pakistan have so far won all their matches. From the Indian point of view though, the feeling of despair after the first two losses has eased a bit by a morale-boosting victory against Afghanistan. India’s openers KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma gave a demonstration of what they can achieve when they tango. There were no breaks applied while playing spin, even the finishing kick came in the form of late power-hitting by Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant. In a near perfect game, there was no let-up from the bowlers either. “Unfortunately, after the first two losses, I did feel a bit low about it and it wasn't a special feeling. Maybe the chance of qualification took a bit of a dent. After the win (against Afghanistan), we still do have our fingers crossed and hope things go right,” said Ashwin.

The off-spinner making an immediate impact on his T20I return is one positive the team would want to rely on for the rest of the tournament. Ashwin’s opportunity came following Varun Chakravarthy’s left calf niggle. But if fit, India may want to consider playing both the mystery spinner and Ashwin together to deceive the Scottish batters, now that Pandya seems to have gathered enough strength to roll his arm over for at least two overs. Two of their medium-pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shardul Thakur haven’t looked threatening. Still, of the two, Thakur’s unpredictable mix-ups would get the nod if India decide against a change in gameplan.

The conditions in Dubai have remained challenging for the teams batting first and the pitch seems to ease out even when the dew effect is nominal in the second innings. That’s not the only reason why India would hope for Kohli’s wretched luck with toss to turn. India would be better placed to improve their net run rate sufficiently if they get to go for a target in quick time, rather than having to defend a total.

The Scots on their part would love to disrupt India’s plans. Any competitive game, let alone an upset against powerhouses India, is a massive incentive for an Associate nation on the world stage. “Of course, the excitement is there. It's been there for every game in this tournament. I think coming up against a side like India and maybe just throw things into a new level perhaps,” said Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Rasesh Mandani loves a straight drive. He has been covering cricket, the governance and business side of sport for close to two decades. He writes and video blogs for HT.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022