Mumbai, Nov 1: Placed at the top of the points table with an unbeaten streak of six matches, India need to win at least one of their remaining three matches to secure a place in the semifinals of the ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2023.
In light of the permutations and combinations, as the World Cup reaches the home stretch with 14 matches still to be played, Rohit Sharma's team gets its first chance to secure the last-four berth on Thursday when it takes on Sri Lanka at the Waknhede Stadium in Mumbai.
After this match, India will take on second-placed South Africa on November 5 and the Netherlands on November 12.
India are currently at the top of the points table with 12 points from six wins, their opponents Sri Lanka, on the other hand, are placed seventh with two wins and four losses.
Sri Lanka too have some chances of making it to the last four stage -- their best opportunity is to win all three of their remaining matches and hope that New Zealand, Australia or other teams can finish on 10 points. They also have to improve their Net Run Rate majorly to improve their chances of making it to the semifinals. It is difficult but achievable if luck favours them.
But Sri Lanka has not enjoyed much luck in this tournament as they have lost some key players including skipper Dasun Shanaka and Lahiru Kumara and Matheesha Pathirana -- all to injuries. They have failed to impose themselves in both batting and bowling departments and the defeat to Afghanistan in Pune has really hurt their chances.
India too have faced injury problems with key all-rounder Hardik Pandya still doubtful and likely to miss Thursday's clash with Sri Lanka and the subsequent match against South Africa in Kolkata. But his replacement Mohammad Shami has claimed nine wickets in the two matches he has played so far.
The hosts have enjoyed a great campaign in the World Cup, probably their best-ever in the history of the event -- winning five matches while chasing and one by defending a small total against England. Their comfortable run based on comprehensive wins has been set up by their bowling unit which has worked with clockwork precision.
Jasprit Bumrah has claimed 14 wickets while Kuldeep Yadav has led the spinners with 10 wickets while Ravindra Jadeja has bagged eight wickets so far.
On the batting front, skipper Rohit Sharma has led from the front and is the leading run-scorer for India with 398 runs from six matches with one hundred and two fifties. Virat Kohli is not far behind with 354 runs from six innings, which includes one century and three fifties.
But what has caught the eye is their contrasting style of batting in this event, while Rohit has hammer and tongs at the bowling from the start, Kohli has been played to the situation, been cautious and has played the finisher's role well. KL Rahul has contributed 216 runs, which includes a half-century. Other batters have failed to grab their opportunities and make some hefty contributions. It is this area that India needs to improve upon as they get into the business end of the tournament.
While the team has had a great run so far, winning one more match and getting 14 points will guarantee them a place in the knockout stage. Of course, going into the knockout stage with an all-win record will be a huge morale booster, but securing the semifinal spot should be their priority.
Therefore, the Indians can't afford to be complacent. They have had their troubles with a lot of travel as they play each of their matches at a separate venue.
Sri Lanka too can't afford to lose this match if they have to keep alive their chances. Their defeat to Afghanistan a couple of days back at Pune was a real dampener for them and they will be itching to get back to winning ways and maintain their chances of reaching the knockout stage.
India and Sri Lanka have faced each other on nine occasions in the ODI World Cups, with both teams winning four matches each and one ending in no result.
Overall, the two teams have played each other 167 times with India winning 98 of them and Sri Lanka 57. Of the remaining, 11 matches have ended in no result while one was tied.
At the Wankhede Stadium, India have won 11 out of the 20 ODIs they have played so far, losing nine. Of their 11 wins, only three have come batting first, so don't be surprised if Rohit Sharma opts to bowl first if he wins the toss on Thursday.
Sri Lanka have won two and lost one match at the Wankhede. But that one defeat has been a significant one as it was final of the 2011 World Cup that India won to lift the World Cup for the second time.
Rohit Sharma and his team will hope to beat Sri Lanka once again in a World Cup match at the Wankhede on Thursday and go on to lift the crown. (IANS)