Sitting on top of the points table as the only unbeaten team in the tournament, India have excelled in all departments of the game consistently, barring the average batting show in their last match against England in Lucknow.
Batting first for the first time in the tournament, India put up just 229/9 on the board. It made England the favourites, but only until Mohammed Shami (4/22) and Jasprit Bumrah (3/32) came out breathing fire to destroy the English team’s run-chase. India went on to win the match by 100 runs, which turned defending champions England’s poor show in the tournament poorer.
England have lost five of their six matches in the tournament and are virtually knocked out of the tournament.
“With Shami coming in, India’s bowling template has changed completely,” said Akhtar on his YouTube channel. “England ko to andha kar diya Shami aur Bumrah ne. They didn’t let England breathe. Then there are (Ravindra) Jadeja and Kuldeep (Yadav). This is becoming a ruthless bowling attack.”
Shami found a place in India’s playing eleven after Hardik Pandya injured his ankle in the match against Bangladesh. Hardik has since been recuperating and missed the games against New Zealand and England. Grabbing his chance, Shami took five wickets against the Kiwis and four against England.
“People used to say India win matches with batting. See today, they are doing it with bowling as well. They had to defend 229 and won by 100 runs! That’s a huge thing! Hats off to the Indian bowling, especially Bumrah, very very smart fast bowler,” Akhtar added.
India have three round-robin matches left to play – against Sri Lanka, South Africa and the Netherlands, which prompted Akhtar to add that it’s a matter of five days now for India to clinch their third ODI World Cup trophy.
“India now need five good days to win the World Cup. If they go the final unbeaten and win the title, it will be a world record. I have never seen that, winning the World Cup without losing (a single match). I hope they don’t have a bad luck in the semifinal or final,” said Akhtar.
The fast-bowling great warned India against dropping anyone from their bowling unit once Hardik returns fit.
“A half-fit Hardik Pandya is not good for the Indian bowling attack because they may drop one bowler (to bring him in)…You can drop (Shreyas) Iyer if Hardik comes in, but don’t drop anyone from your bowling unit,” he said.
Akthar also pointed out those who question him for praising the Indian team.
“Log kehte hain aap India ki tareef karte hain. To kya tareef na karu? (people question me when I praise India, why shouldn’t I?), said Akthar.
“Defending 230 they win by 100-run margin, to mai tareef na karu? Come on, they are playing very good cricket. They deserve all the admiration and adulation,” he concluded.
India will next take on Sri Lanka in their seventh match of the tournament on November 2 in Mumbai.