LAWRENCE BOOTH: Only India can stop themselves winning the World Cup

LAWRENCE BOOTH: India have dominated the World Cup, with Virat Kohli at his majestic best and Jasprit Bumrah unplayable… Rohit Sharma’s side may be the only ones that can stop themselves lifting the trophy

  • India have won all five of their games at the Cricket World Cup to date
  • Their key players are all finding form, and the team have barely been tested
  • India are looking to end their trophy drought and look well-placed to do so 

The World Cup is not yet halfway through its 45-match group stage, but already the most frequently asked question is: can anyone stop India?

Their victory over New Zealand in Dharamshala on Sunday left them as the tournament’s only unbeaten side. Worse, at least as far as opponents are concerned, is that they’ve barely been tested. In five games, they have lost only 18 wickets, while taking 46 themselves.

It has been a procession – and a nation of over 1.4 billion people are besides themselves with excitement, with The Times of India declaring that their team’s campaign has ‘acquired an aura of invincibility’. Nationalistic sentiment, driven by prime minister Narendra Modi, is at fever pitch, and the cricketers are fuelling the narrative.

The sense of a pre-ordained march to glory has been heightened by the performance of Virat Kohli, who brought up his hundred against Bangladesh with the match-winning six, then fell for 95 trying to repeat the dose against New Zealand.

No matter that the closing stages of both games seemed moulded around his pursuit of personal milestones: Indian fans have always treasured individual hundreds, and they are in no mood to dial down the noise.

India beat New Zealand on Sunday to maintain their perfect record at the World Cup

Virat Kohli has hit a century and three fifties in his five innings at the World Cup so far

Jasprit Bumrah is bowling better than ever, and India look almost impossible to stop right now

If Kohli has underlined his status as the greatest chaser in the history of the game, then captain Rohit Sharma has repeatedly got his side off to the kind of flyer which was once the preserve of England: his 17 sixes are three clear of the pack.

Fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah has often been unplayable, and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja is the tournament’s most unhittable bowler in the middle overs. Both have gone at under four an over.

And when seamer Mohammed Shami came in for his first match on Sunday, he started with a five-for. It says much for India’s depth that a bowler as skilful as Ravichandran Ashwin has largely twiddled his spinning fingers on the bench.

There remains, though, a fly in the ointment: in recent World Cups, India have failed to turned dominance into silverware.

Jos Buttler’s England thrashed India by 10 wickets at the Twenty20 World Cup last year

Rohit Sharma’s side will be seeking revenge when they face England on Sunday, as they look to continue their pursuit of a first global title in over a decade

In 2015, they won seven out of seven before being thrashed by Australia in the semi-final. In 2019, they topped the 10-team group stage, only to lose to New Zealand in the last four at Old Trafford.

And their game against England in Lucknow on Sunday has been billed by host broadcaster Star Sports as a chance to ‘set the record straight’ after Jos Buttler’s team hammered them by 10 wickets in the semi-final of last year’s T20 World Cup in Adelaide.

Neither have they yet had to set the agenda, batting second in all five of their matches, which has played to Kohli’s strengths. Only when Australia reduced them to two for three chasing 200 in their first game of the tournament in Chennai have they looked even vaguely vulnerable.

As things stand, only an off-day in the knockouts seems likely to stop them now, providing another reminder that the greatest threat to India’s chances remains India themselves.

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