Powering up for knockout blow

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BENGALURU: The marauding Indians have not put a foot wrong in their authoritative run in the World Cup and it won’t be a surprise if they go about plundering Netherlands in their final group game, where Virat Kohli will have a perfect opportunity to go past Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49 centuries.

India have already qualified for the semifinals while Netherlands are eliminated, but heading into the big game on Wednesday India would surely like to maintain the momentum. Hence, the hosts are unlikely to make major changes to the playing XI.

Head coach Rahul Dravid, too, hinted at it, saying he was focusing on getting his best players in the best mental and physical shape for their semifinal against New Zealand. “We’ve had six days off from the last game so we’re pretty well rested and the guys are in good shape. That’s all I’ll say,” he said.

An approaching historic personal milestone for Kohli also gives this game an exciting undertone. Kohli had equalled Tendulkar’s record of 49 ODI hundreds against South Africa at Kolkata, and the wait is on for his 50th ton.

From the team’s point of view, the management might just want to see Suryakumar Yadav get going. He has made 85 runs from four matches at an average of 21.25. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj have made life difficult for the opposition batters. The five-man bowling unit will be looking for one final rehearsal ahead of the last-four match.

No middle-order woes

Ahead of the showpiece, there was a hint of concern surrounding the Indian middle-order, particularly around KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer, but Dravid expressed his delight over the manner in which they have handled their tasks so far.

While they may not have not set the stage ablaze, Rahul’s tally of 245 runs and Iyer’s 293 runs have allowed India a good degree of batting solidity.

“How well your middle-order performs in challenging situations under pressure, is going to probably decide how well you do. While our top order batters performed exceptionally well, our middle-order played very critical roles,” Dravid said. He was not worried about the fact that the stats of players like Rahul and Iyer were not as glossy as some other batters in the side.

“You can’t judge them by numbers. It only gives you half of the picture, but it’s actually some of those 30s, 40s, critical knocks. I can look back at the contributions of our middle-order and they’ll come only in sort of spurts a Shreyas (Iyer), or a KL (Rahul), or a Surya (Suryakumar Yadav), and Jaddu’s (Ravindra Jadeja) important knock in Dharamsala. These small things actually what really gives you those ticks,” said Dravid.