The Indian cricket team continued its unbeaten run at the 2023 ODI World Cup with a fourth win on the trot, the latest a seven-wicket hammering of Bangladesh in Pune where fans were treated to Virat Kohli’s 48th century in the format, and first at the World Cup since 2015.
The win keeps India at second on the points table, on eight points along with leaders New Zealand, but a lesser net run rate is where the tournament standings will really be watched. Thus, India’s openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill hurrying off the blocks in pursuit of a target of 257 was crucial, as was Kohli speeding to his own half-century and not slowing down thereon. However, Kohli’s repeated denial of easy singles as the end of the match neared, just so he could get himself a century, might not go down well with everyone. But then, few will complain given the status of the man widely acknowledged as the best chaser in ODIs this generation.
Most importantly, India pocketed two points to stay not out in the World Cup. They lost the toss and struggled to take wickets in the Powerplay as Bangladesh’s openers Tanzid Hasan and Litton Das cashed in on a flat track, hitting 93 in less than 15 overs. Hasan hurried to 51 off 43 balls before an overambitious sweep at Kuldeep Yadav gave India the breakthrough, and stand-in captain Najmul Hossain Shanto’s dismissal to Ravindra Jadeja saw the Bangladesh innings pulled back from 110 for 2 after 20 overs.
Without Shakib Al Hasan, the two veterans Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah needed to do the heavy lifting. They were batted as low as six and seven, from where Mushfiqur made 38 and Mahmudullah 46, but truth be told on that flat track Bangladesh should have made 300. Instead, thanks chiefly to Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep and Jadeja, they were limited to 256 for 8.
During this period, India lost Hardik Pandya to an ankle injury and the sight of the allrounder hobbling off the field after sending down just three deliveries does not look good for the tournament favourites. Pandya was sent to a Pune hospital for scans and returned to watch Kohli finish the job, and with no official word from the BCCI it is anyone’s guess as to the severity of the injury. India next play New Zealand on Sunday, and perhaps rushing Pandya back in less than three days is too much of a risk. India then have six days before the match against England, so giving Pandya ten days to recover seems the logical path.
The manner in which Rohit again walked the talk and delivered a strong start to India’s chase was with keeping with his current vibe. Rohit hit seven fours and two sixes in his 48 off 40 balls, and few will criticize his dismissal in the 13th over when he went for another six. Gill, in his second match of the World Cup, looked solid for his 53 off 55 balls. Shreyas Iyer’s shot when on 19, given the absence of Pandya, can be termed reckless but he will not be dropped anytime soon.
The chase was thus all about Kohli, who finished not out on 103 from 97 deliveries having hit six fours and four sixes. A terrific innings from a man clearly enjoying his batting and who looks hell-bent on leaving his mark on every match he plays. This is a master batsman doing what he does best – finishing matches – and India look set to extend their dominant run, though Pandya’s injury is a concern.