Sat 6 July, 10:30 GMT
Venue: Headingley, Leeds
With a shaky middle order that has been a cause of concern despite the winning run Team India would be keen for the likes of M.S Dhoni to find some form ahead of the semi-final as they face Sri Lanka in their last preliminary World Cup clash this Saturday. With a second spot guaranteed and a last-four spot, a win against Sri Lanka can see Kohli’s men on top of the points table given Australia lose their final game against the already ousted South Africa. Given Team India may have a lot to play for as a pole position and a possible semi-final against a New Zealand team on a downward turn will be more welcoming than facing a dangerous England which are on a upswing.
Yet the middle-order link has remained unsolved and it has increasingly looked that Indian team management has been heavily dependent on the original plan, which is success from their top-order.
Vice-captain Rohit Sharma, with 544 runs that include record four tons, has been the shining player and captain Kohli, with five half-centuries and 400 plus aggregate, has also had a good World Cup but perhaps not exceptional to his expected standards.
In this backdrop, there cannot be a better opposition than Sri Lanka for Mahendra Singh Dhoni to check his bat swing at the death overs when Lasith Malinga will be firing in at the block-hole or bowl his variation of slower deliveries.
No one more than captain Kohli will like his “guiding light” to succeed as his role will be immense should India remain in the competition for the final next Sunday.
However, this could prompt Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri to bring back Kedar Jadhav in the middle-order for his off-breaks.
But that could be a bit unfair on Dinesh Karthik, who didn’t get to face too many balls against Bangladesh in their last game.
Kohli till now hasn’t shown any inclination of pushing Dhoni up the order beyond number five. And it could turn out to be an interesting ploy if the former captain bats at number four, while the power hitters like Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya play their natural game down the order.
Vijay Shankar’s replacement Mayank is already here but his best friend KL Rahul, with a couple fifties, has ensured his place at the top of the order alongside Rohit, who would would be gunning for a fifth World Cup hundred.
Rohit has scored two ODI double hundreds against this attack and it will be imtimidating for the likes of Isuru Udana. They will bank on Malinga’s intelligence gathered from the Mumbai Indians dressing room to break the ‘hitman code’.
India’s fast bowlers, led by Jasprit Bumrah (14) and well supported by Mohammed Shami (14 wickets), would have ideally liked some rest before semi-finals. But with the top position on the points charts in line, Kohli may just be tempted to go with at least one of them if not both.