Painted faces of Bangladesh and India supporters look on during the ICC Champions Trophy Semi Final match between Bangladesh and India at Edgbaston, June 15, in Birmingham, England. (Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Rohit Sharma stamped his class with an authoritative hundred in the company of magnificent Virat Kohli as India annihilated Bangladesh by nine wickets to set up a bumper summit showdown with arch-rivals Pakistan in the Champions Trophy, in Birmingham, June 15, writes Kushan Sarkar.
The lazy elegance of Rohit (123 n.o. off 129 balls) coupled with the unmatched swagger of skipper Kohli (96 n.o. off 78 balls) ensured India treat Bangladesh’s attack with utter disdain, knocking off a modest target of 265 in 40.1 overs.
This was after some inspired bowling changes from Kohli, including the introduction of part-time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav, which changed the complexion of the game with Bangladesh managing only 264 for seven in 50 overs.
A miracle was needed for the over-rated mediocre pace attack to stop the Indian line-up. That didn’t happen as Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan (46) added 87 for the opening wicket.
And then came skipper Kohli, who treated the opposition attack as a bunch of net bowlers, adding 178 runs for the second wicket off 153 balls.
The Indian captain also reached a personal milestone of 8000 ODI runs in his 183rd match.
Rohit’s innings will be remembered for those pull shots and the amount of time he had to execute each one of them.
But Kohli’s innings will be specifically remembered for two shots, or rather two pushes, off Mustafizur Rahaman—they were the best of the Indian innings.
One that went straight past the bowler and the other was pushed through the vacant mid-off area. It was the best way of showing who the boss is.
The gulf between the two teams was evident in the manner the Indian batsmen toyed with the Bangladesh attack.
Anything short outside the off-stump was cut with ferocity. If the short ball was on leg and middle, it was dutifully pulled by Rohit, Kohli or Dhawan.
They played all sorts of pull shots Rohit primarily hit behind the square, Dhawan through the square and Virat in front of the square.
Rohit, who is playing his first international tournament in six months, once again showed during his 11th ODI hundred as to why he is so highly rated.
There were 15 boundaries and a hooked six off Mustafizur brought up his hundred. Kohli, who finished the match with a boundary, hit 13 of them in all.
Earlier, Jadhav’s ‘golden arm’ provided decisive twin blows, helping India restrict Bangladesh opting to bowl.
Jadhav’s 2/22 in six overs brought India back in the game as he took the crucial wickets of Tamim Iqbal (70) and Mushfiqur Rahim (61) with his fast-ish off-breaks.
The two wickets proved to be the difference as Bangladesh only crossed the 260-mark instead of a projected 310 after Tamim and Rahim had added 123 runs for the second wicket in 21.1 overs.
Once Kedar was done with his job, Jasprit Bumrah (2/40 in 10 overs) played his regular part to perfection, stifling the opposition with as many as 40 dot balls.
The third powerplay (41-50) saw Bangladesh scoring only 62 runs, primarily due to a cameo from skipper Mashrafe Mortaza (30 n.o. off 25 balls).
Bumrah’s senior partner Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2/53) complemented him well with a couple of dismissals first up.
Bangladesh lost the momentum when Jadhav first got rid of the dangerous Tamim, who tried an ugly slog sweep to a delivery that was fired down the middle and leg. He missed the line completely to be bowled.
In a space of few overs, Jadhav was back in thick of things, this time getting Rahim to drive uppishly that went straight to Kohli at mid-wicket.
Jadhav was an inspired choice for Kohli as his fifth bowler Hardik Pandya had an off day, giving away 34 in his four overs, including an over in which he got Tamim out twice – caught off a free-hit and then bowled off a no-ball.
Ravindra Jadeja (1/48 in 10 overs) got Shakib Al Hasan (15) caught by Mahendra Singh Dhoni between the dismissals of Tamim and Rahim.
From 154 for two, Bangladesh slumped to 179 for five, again fluffing their lines during the crucial death overs.
It was Bumrah who took charge during the death overs. He scared the hell out of Mosaddek Saikat (15) with a barrage of short balls, which got him a simple caught and bowled.
Bangladesh’s last hope for a big score was Mahmudullah Riyadh (21), who got a perfect yorker and he could have done nothing about it.
Earlier, both Tamim and Shakib didn’t take too many risks but got the scoreboard ticking, raising hopes of a big total when they were comfortably placed at 154 for two.
Tamim’s 82-ball innings had seven fours and a flicked six off Pandya, while Rahim hit four boundaries in his 85-ball knock. After three successive boundaries off a Bhuvneshwar over, Rahim was more keen on rotating the strike.
They, in fact, negotiated Ravichandran Ashwin (10-0-54-0) well without taking any undue risks. While Ashwin bowled 27 dot balls, he did not bowl any wicket-taking deliveries. But it hardly mattered in the end.
Number of Runs I Score Don’t Matter at This Stage: Kohli
When Virat Kohli is in full flow, the bat looks like a mere extension of his artistic hands which makes all the statistical nuggets associated with his achievements irrelevant.
The straight push and the off-drive off Mustafizur Rahman can’t tell the story of how intimidating Kohli’s presence can be. The ‘Cutter Master’ wilted, Rubel Hossain looked ordinary and Shakib Al Hasan an apprentice.
But for the Indian captain, even after a classy 96 and the personal milestone of fastest 8000 ODI runs, the numbers don’t matter at this stage.
From a more flamboyant role, Kohli at times has played second fiddle in this tournament, letting the other batsmen express themselves. Yet he has been able to up the ante when required.
Has it been difficult? “Well, it’s not been difficult at all. I am really enjoying the way I am batting. For me, the number of runs, do not matter at this stage.
“I am really enjoying the process, and something which is, you know, giving me joy is that whatever I am practicing and how I prepared after the IPL, is paying off in this tournament. So I am pretty happy getting the team across the line, honestly,” there was a sense of satisfaction in his voice as he replied to the query.
For Kohli, what matters is applying himself according to the demands of the situation.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s three wickets or two or even one. I want to apply myself in any situation possible. Last game, it was a bit more challenging in terms of chasing a low total and we lost one early wicket so I had to apply differently,” he said.
“But again, the way Rohit and Shikhar batted, it just gave me so much confidence heading into the changing room.”
The India skipper was all praise for Dhawan.
“Especially Shikhar, the way he took off was outstanding.
Those two guys really dent the opposition mentally and you can come in and play your shorts, and once you get going, the wicket was obviously really nice to bat on, as well.”
But Kohli did mention that wicket was fantastic to bat on.
“I don’t want to take all the credit. It was a beautiful wicket to bat on and the outfield was quick, so I think it was great conditions and as a batsman, you do want to capitalize,” he said.
Don’t Think We Need to Change Anything for Final: Kohli
Pakistan’s “magnificent turnaround” has impressed him but India captain Virat Kohli says there is nothing that his side needs to be overly concerned about ahead of the Champions Trophy final against the arch-foes, June 18.
India eased past Bangladesh to enter the finals while Pakistan got the better of more fancied England in their semifinal clash.
India have already beaten Pakistan in the ongoing tournament during the preliminary stage.
Speaking about what is expected to be a high-voltage second clash, Kohli was nonchalant.
“What we are going to try to do is repeat the similar sort of cricket that we have played so far, knowing the strengths and weaknesses they have. Obviously, we will have to plan a bit according to that, but I don’t know if there’s much that we need to change as a team,” he said.
“I don’t think we need to look too far away from what we are doing as a group, I think focus on our skills and our abilities and believe in ourselves on that particular day, and we will give ourselves a good chance to go out there and do some good things for the team,” he added.
Asked if India made a statement to their bitter rivals with the nine-wicket triumph over Bangladesh last night, Kohli dismissed the suggestion.
“There are no statements in this game, honestly. On the day you arrive, if you are not feeling well mentally, it doesn’t matter whether you are 100 or whether you had a convincing victory.
“And there will be days, when you score a zero and you feel great on the day as you have won a game of cricket.
That’s how this game goes, and that’s the beauty of this game,” said Kohli when asked if Pakistan will be rattled by India’s performance.
“No one is a winner beforehand, and you can’t predict anything in this game. We have seen some really surprising results, and it’s been amazing for the fans to watch and for the players to be a part of, as well. We just want to enjoy the finals and we deserve to be there,” the skipper had a calm confidence in his tone.
But, he insisted that his team never takes anything for granted.
“We played some really good cricket. We are not going to take anything for granted for sure. It doesn’t matter whether we win by nine wickets, we win by one wicket. We are just going to go there and try to do the same things again and again. Be bowling as a team, and hopefully the results will come,” he added.
He was all praise for Pakistan team’s turnaround in the competition.
“Yeah, I am very impressed. The turnaround has been magnificent. Obviously, if you reach the finals, you have to play some good cricket, and credit to them, they have turned around things for themselves really well.
“They have beaten sides that looked really strong against them, but the belief just showed on the field the way they played together as a team, and you know, regardless of who you play in the finals, it’s always going to be challenging because once you start thinking that it’s a big game, then your mindset changes,” the skipper gave a peek into the mindset of an international team.