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CWC 23: Spotlight on Mumbai boys in semis | Cricket


CWC 23: Spotlight on Mumbai boys in semis | Cricket


Returning to your home ground, having taken the mental and physical toll of constantly travelling from one city to another, can bring a number of advantages with it. There is a sense of familiarity, a comfort zone, where you’re well aware of the sights and smells in and around the stadium. Your family and friends are usually in attendance, and you tend to have a better understanding of the pitch and dimensions of the field. The crowd chants your name, you feel secure, and the team backs you to deliver.

Rohit Sharma plays a shot during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup match between India and Netherlands in Bengaluru,(AP)
Rohit Sharma plays a shot during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup match between India and Netherlands in Bengaluru,(AP)

At the ongoing ICC Men’s ODI World Cup, this special feeling will be reserved for four Mumbai players of the Indian team in the semi-finals. The all-important clash with New Zealand will take place at the Wankhede Stadium and naturally there will be extra focus on the local boys in the side.

Rohit Sharma, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav and Shardul Thakur have all played their part, albeit in varying degrees, during India’s dominant run until now. While Rohit has led the way in impressive fashion as captain, Shreyas and Suryakumar have been among the runs in the middle order.

In the semi-final, Rohit, Shreyas and Suryakumar will continue to be important cogs for India as they face a dangerous New Zealand side, who came out on top when the two teams clashed at this stage in the previous World Cup.

Rohit has been close to his best at the top of the order. The right-hander has scored 503 runs in nine matches, with three fifties and a century, and his strike-rate of 121.49 is by far the best among the top five batters in the lineup.

However, it’s not just about the number of runs, but the manner in which the opening batter has gone about his business that has helped set the tone for India. For instance, Rohit’s 24-ball 40 against South Africa was critical in setting up India’s win. The pitch at the Eden Gardens was challenging, with the ball not really coming on to the bat. There, the 36-year-old smashed two sixes and six fours in the first six overs to set his team on its way. It wasn’t the first time in the tournament that he had given India a head start and his home city’s fans will be hoping he keeps up this aggressive approach.

Iyer heads into the semis in cracking form. He will be boosted by his performance at his home ground during the ongoing tournament. During the league stage, he was under some pressure having gotten out to the short ball twice before the game in Mumbai against Sri Lanka. But playing at the Wankhede, he returned to form with a 56-ball 82. Batting in his aggressive style, he hit as many as six maximums to turn the tide. He hasn’t looked back since with scores of 77 and 128* against South Africa and Netherlands respectively.

Iyer made his first-class debut, as a 20-year-old, at the Wankhede and also played his first T20 game for his state team at this venue. In international cricket, he has played five matches at his home ground – one Test, two ODIs and T20Is each – and has scored a total of 148 runs at an average of 29.60. Given the form he’s in, he’ll be determined to improve on these numbers and play another impactful innings through the middle overs.

Suryakumar, on the other hand, has played a number of memorable knocks at the Wankhede over the years. The 33-year-old has been a mainstay for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League and tends to thrive at the venue, enthralling fans with his scoops and ramps.

In this World Cup, he was included in the playing XI after sitting out of the first four games. While Pandya’s injury led to Shardul’s ouster, it helped Suryakumar get in. India switched their strategy and decided to go with a specialist batter and bowler in him and Shami.

With the batters ahead of him in fine touch, Suryakumar hasn’t had a lot to do down the order but he did show what he’s capable of in the England game. On a difficult pitch in Lucknow, it was his 47-ball 49 that helped India get to 229/9 and complete a 100-run win eventually. Expected to be the X-factor for the team, he can lift the team when the chips are down.

Shardul, meanwhile, has got the least game-time so far. The pace bowling all-rounder featured in three matches – against Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh – but was sidelined once Pandya got ruled out due to injury. India opted for Mohammed Shami in the pace attack and haven’t changed their combination since.

Perhaps, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that of the two venues for the semi-finals in this World Cup – Mumbai and Kolkata – India would’ve preferred to play theirs at the latter. The pitch at the Eden Gardens offers more grip to the spinners and India’s batters are well equipped to handle it.

At the Wankhede, though, the pacers can surely get the ball to zip around, especially under lights, and New Zealand had done well to exploit similarly helpful conditions in the 2019 semi-final. India will hope their local players, who hold key positions in the batting unit, can help turn the tables this time around.


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