Have India qualified for the semifinals? That seems to be the question on most Indian cricket fans’ lips. More so after the five-run win over Bangladesh in the tense rain-hit game of the T20 World Cup in Adelaide.
Well, the answer is not straightforward. The safest option is to say that India have inched closer to a last-four spot. That’s because there are several variables. Some results are unlikely, but in cricket, nothing is certain. And T20 cricket has a habit of making a mockery of predictions.
India are atop Group 2 with six points from four games and a match in hand against Zimbabwe on Sunday. The game assumes importance if Pakistan beat South Africa and Bangladesh to reach six points. In that case, the Zimbabwe match will be a must-win tie for India to finish in the top two with eight points. Even if the game is rained off, Indian will make the semi-finals since Pakistan and Bangladesh cannot reach seven points.
But if India lose to Zimbabwe in their last game, and Pakistan win both their remaining games to be at six points, Babar Azam’s team will finish above India on net run rate. South Africa will be ahead of India on seven points, if they overcome minnows Netherlands. In that case, India will exit the tournament, having finished third in Group.
That should not be a worry since India have enough talent and skill to beat Zimbabwe. But a win is not a certainty. The team led by Craig Ervine had upstaged Pakistan, a team packed with four fast bowlers who clock over 145 kph and an effective leg-spinner. So it would be foolhardy to dismiss Zimbabwe’s challenge. Moreover, India’s struggle to subdue Bangladesh remains fresh in memory.
Now comes another question: Can Pakistan overcome South Africa? They have the arsenal to bring down the Proteas, but then, the Temba Bavuma-led team have been the only unbeaten team in the tournament. The only point they dropped was against Zimbabwe when the match was abandoned due to rain, and they were forced to split points.
On current form, South Africa can withstand the thunderbolts from Pakistan bowlers. Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw, Aiden Markram and David Miller have come good with the bat in the tournament. They also have a pace attack to rival Pakistan: Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, and Anrich Nortje are a pacy bunch, with left-arm seamer Wayne Parnell adding variety.
That should make for a fiery encounter. A result that would have a bearing on deciding the group leaders. If South Africa win, then India will join them in the semis.
There could be another scenario as well. If Pakistan lose to South Africa and Bangladesh, Shakib Al Hasan’s team could join India at six points. But that should not matter for India since a loss to Zimbabwe will not affect Rohit Sharma’s side so long as they keep the net run rate intact.
Confused? The simple answer is that India would make the semifinal if South Africa defeat Pakistan. Let’s leave the permutations aside. We will get to it only if required.