After coming through the group stage with a perfect record, holders India will be aiming to steer clear of an upset when taking on Bangladesh in the 2015 Cricket World Cup quarterfinals at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. India have won all six of their matches so far in Australia and New Zealand, to banish memories of a poor buildup to the competition that saw them fail to win a single match in a tri-series against Australia and England.
Securing top spot in Pool B has given India a matchup against what is on paper the weakest of the quarterfinalists. Bangladesh finished fourth in Pool A, having caused the only significant upset of the competition so far when effectively knocking out England. Yet India will need no reminding of the potential dangers of underestimating their opponents. India’s worst result in the recent history of the World Cup came back in 2007, when Bangladesh triumphed in Trinidad and Tobago to ultimately send them through to the quarterfinals for the only previous time in their history at their opponents expense.
There have been few signs of such a failure this time around, however. With an impressive batting lineup, a bowling attack that has so far proved the doubters wrong, and the expert captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India will begin the match at the famed MCG as overwhelming favorites. Yet with the grueling group stage having concluded and given way to the perilous knockout phase, there is plenty of pressure on the 2011 champions to deliver. Speaking after India saw off Zimbabwe in their final group match, though, Dhoni explained that playing under a weight of expectation is nothing new for a team that is the focus of attention for a large percentage of a country with over 1.2 billion people.
“Irrespective of which team we play or which tournament we play, we are under pressure,” he said, reports The Times Of India. “The good thing, the boys are quite used to it. Once a few times there have been instances where we are down, but from that position, also, we have come back strongly and we have done well.”
If Bangladesh are to cause a famous shock and reach the last four of a World Cup for the first time, they are likely to require a starring performance from Shakib Al Hasan. The 27-year-old is rated as the second best all-rounder in the world in one-day internationals by the International Cricket Council and has taken seven wickets and scored 186 runs in this World Cup so far. And he believes that Bangladesh are capable of repeating their famous win eight years ago.
“Obviously it will be in our memory,” he said of the victory over India in 2007, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “But it's a new game and we all know it. India are a very good side, they have some world-class players. Obviously it's going to be hard for us. We know that but we're up for the challenge.
“I think we played fearless cricket and we all want to play that brand of cricket [again] and, so far in this World Cup, I think we're doing it. India have a very good team. They are the defending world champions, they've got some world-class players, but we're doing well in this World Cup, our confidence is high enough and we're up for the match.”
Prediction: Bangladesh cannot be dismissed lightly, having only been beaten convincingly by Sri Lanka in the group stage. But India are in fine form in every phase of the game, and there is no indication that they will buckle under pressure. Especially if they win the toss and bat first, India should win with something to spare on a pitch where they obliterated South Africa just a few weeks ago.