To be a world champion, a team needs to be ruthless, never ready to give an inch to the opposition. This is what Pakistan did in 1992, coming back from the dead to lift the trophy. Australia did something similar in 1999, when they needed to win seven matches on a trot following a poor start. They went on to remain unbeaten in 2003 and 2007. In the current tournament, India and New Zealand have displayed similar qualities, winning all their league games. But, that wouldn't count for much now. All that matters is how they perform in the knockouts. One loss, and all the great work will be undone. That's the beauty as well as harshness of professional sport, a World Cup to be more specific.
Like with the Ireland-Pakistan clash, India's loss to Bangladesh in the 2007 edition has also come back into focus as they face each other in the quarter-finals at Melbourne. Although the present Indian squad is much better than Rahul Dravid's men of 2007, India must avoid complacency of any kind at the MCG, for Bangladesh would be ready to pounce upon any given opportunity. While India will undoubtedly begin as favourites on current form, for Bangladesh this is a golden opportunity to prove that their days of being pushovers are finally behind them. Their superlative showing against England, and the fact that they ran New Zealand extremely close in the final league game should give them added confidence.
India's batting as well as the bowling combination seems settled for now. There are only a couple of individual concerns. Opener Rohit Sharma has been giving away too many starts. This is nothing new, but India will not take the risk of dropping him since they know how dangerous he can be. Also, he has got a couple of half-centuries, so it isn't as if he is not getting runs at all. The bigger headache for the team would be the ineffectiveness of Ravindra Jadeja. He has been chosen as the all-rounder in the team, but hasn't done anything of note with bat as well as the ball. His left-arm spin was easily taken to the cleaners by Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams, and Bangladesh would be ready to target him.
The game against Zimbabwe was not of much importance as far as standings were concerned. But, India gained a lot out of that since Suresh Raina got a much-awaited hundred under pressure. The left-hander hadn't got much of a hit following his heroics in the opening game against Pakistan. Also, skipper MS Dhoni played his most significant innings since perhaps the 91 not out in the 2011 World Cup final. The Indian captain has displayed extremely scratchy form in the last couple of years, and his return to runs going into the knockouts is a massive plus for India. The match against Zimbabwe also saw Ravichandran Ashwin being targeted for the first time. It remains to be seen how he responds against Bangladesh.
Speaking of Bangladesh, Thursday's match will be massive for them. This is the first time they have progressed to the knockout stages of the World Cup. Having said that, there is no reason for them to be overawed. Guys like Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahumdullah having been on the scene for years now. All of them have been in good form, the latter has been particularly spectacular. Among the bowlers, Mashrafe Mortaza, Ruben Hossain and Taskin Ahmed all have been in great form. Bangladesh have a lot going for them. If they perform to potential, they are capable of beating India, and that wouldn't be an upset.
--By A Cricket Analyst