After easing past Bangladesh, India could now be set for a rematch with fierce foes Pakistan in the semifinals of the 2015 Cricket World Cup. India booked their place in the last four on Thursday in Melbourne when beating unfancied Bangladesh by 109 runs, and now await the winners of Friday’s quarterfinal between Pakistan and co-hosts Australia.
The expectation remains that it will be a meeting with Australia that stands between India and a chance to retain their trophy in the final next week. Australia came into the tournament as favorites and the top-ranked side in One-Day Internationals, while Pakistan have continued to blow hot and cold in the competition. Yet Pakistan’s unpredictability means a victory for Misbah-ul-Haq’s side to set up potentially the biggest match in cricket history cannot be ruled out.
The two teams have already faced off in this tournament, in a match that was estimated to have been watched by a billion people, making it the most watched cricket contest ever. And, while they doubtless wouldn’t say so publicly, it is likely that India would feel far more favorable about a semifinal meeting with their neighbors rather than Australia.
The 76-run win for India at the Adelaide Oval took their record in World Cup meetings with their biggest rivals to 6-0, although Pakistan lead the way in One-Day Internationals, 72-51. India’s latest victory in the series got their World Cup off to an ideal start after they had endured a poor buildup to the competition Down Under. They have now won seven straight matches, having breezed through the group stage with a perfect record, including a big win over one of the pre-tournament favorites South Africa.
Pakistan, meanwhile, followed up defeat to India by going down to the West Indies, leaving their very participation beyond the group stage in serious jeopardy. Right when they need it, though, Pakistan have found form. Their four-straight wins included their own victory over South Africa as well as a clutch win over Ireland in a do-or-die final group game to secure progress. And, while they are outsiders heading into their quarterfinal on Friday, Misbah has stressed they are in confident mood. Were they to get past the tournament favorites, their belief would surely be even higher heading toward a chance at revenge against India.
The match would bring both cricket-mad countries to a standstill and be played out in front of a phenomenal atmosphere at the Sydney Cricket Ground next Thursday. Yet there is at least one significant voice who thinks that a match between India and Australia would be a more titanic matchup -- former India captain Sourav Gangully.
"India versus Australia semifinal is a bigger game than an India versus Pakistan match,” he told Star Sports, reports NDTV.
A win for Australia would set up a meeting between the two most successful countries in the history of the Cricket World Cup. Australia have won the event four times, while India claimed victory in 1983 in addition to their triumph on home soil four years ago. En route to the win last time out, India beat Australia in the quarterfinals to reduce their arrears in the head-to-head series in World Cups to 7-3.