MELBOURNE: Skipper Rohit Sharma will look to feast on a Zimbabwe bowling attack in his bid to play an innings that is long overdue in a must-win game of the T20 World Cup here on Sunday.
With Virat Kohli in imperious form and other top-order batters such as KL Rahul and Suryakumar Yadav also playing impactful knocks each, the Indian captain (74 runs in 4 games) is in line to play one of his little gems on a ground where he has scored multiple white ball hundreds.
Rohit has been playing some good shots but save the game against the Netherlands, he hasn't fired much in other games. He is too good a player to not get those booming sixes going his way.
Exactly two weeks back, the MCG witnessed an epic Indo-Pak clash and an innings of a lifetime from Kohli but the match against Zimbabwe is no less important as a victory will clear the pathway to the last four stage.
In that context, the match against Zimbabwe is a must-win game for the Indian team, which is runaway favourites to pummel Regis Chakabva's side whose campaign started in style but tapered off towards the end.
Zimbabwe's batting hasn't exactly fired and against the current Indian attack, it would be difficult for them to put up a stellar show as Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Shami have been on the money.
The only man in the Indian bowling attack, who would expect to put up a batter show than he has done so far is R Ashwin, who has been steady but not extra-ordinary.
A win will put India in pole position of group 2 but a loss might pave the way for Pakistan, who will go through to the semifinals if they beat Bangladesh in their last super 12 match with better net run-rate.
South Africa, who are currently placed in second position with five points, will also make it with a win against the Netherlands but if they lose and Pakistan win then the latter alongwith India will go through to the final four.
If India finish at the top then they will face either England or Australia in the semifinals.
If England wins against Sri Lanka on Saturday, India will be travelling to Adelaide to meet Jos Buttler's men but in case Sri Lanka wins, then the Men In Blue will have to go to Sydney to meet Australia, who would be sneaking into the last four stage.
While the Indian team has not tinkered much with the batting order, Axar Patel was dropped against South Africa because of the multiple left-handed players in their line-up.
With Craig Ervine, Sean Ervine, Ryan Burl and Sean Williams in the Zimbabwean batting line-up, there is a possibility that team management might once again use Deepak Hooda in the line-up like the Proteas game.
However, the biggest threat for India will be Pakistan born Sikandar Raza, who is in the midst of a dream 2022 season and would like to finish the tournament on a high.
The other option will be to use Harshal Patel, the second seam bowling all-rounder, who can be used to keep the solidity of the lower middle order.
The reason why Yuzvendra Chahal, a bowler of immense calibre, isn't being played is because team management doesn't want the tail to be longer than it already is at the moment.
But considering that India, in all likelihood, could be facing England in the semi-final, Chahal could have been used as he has a good match-up record against the English batters.
Zimbabwe and India have never met in T20 World Cups over the years but a recent white ball tour of the African nation has certainly given the coaching staff enough data to figure out their strategy.
Although it was an ODI tour and India's top T20 players didn't figure in that series, the core of the Zimbabwe team is same.
Had they won against the Netherlands, they could still have had an outside chance of remaining relevant in the competition.
But Zimbabwe have done one thing in this T20 World Cup and that is acting as party poopers for Pakistan, who are on the verge of elimination with South Africa playing the Netherlands in their last game.
The average par score in this T20 World Cup is in the 155 to 160 range but India's batting order would like to put up an imposing display in case they bat first and reach near 200-run mark.
While India have won three matches out of four, what Rohit and Rahul would like to do is to give the team a power-packed start in the Powerplay overs which automatically will give them an advantage going into the semi-final.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Axar Patel, R Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rishabh Pant, Depak Hooda, Harshal Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal.
Zimbabwe: Regis Chakabva (captain), Sean Williams, Sean Ervine, Craig Ervine, Sikandar Raza, Tendai Chatara, Luke Jongwe, Brad Evans, Wesley Madhevere, Wellington Masakdazka, Tony Munyonga, Richard Ngarava, Blessing Muzarabani, Multon Shumba.
Match Starts: 1:30 pm (IST)