Big day beckons Dhoni's men

 
Not since the 2002 edition, when they were crowned joint winners alongside hosts Sri Lanka, have India qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions Trophy. For them to break the jinx this time is still a mathematical possibility, though realistically, India have little short of a mountain to climb.

As of now, Pakistan have four points, Australia three, India one and the eliminated West Indies zero in Group A, all teams having one match to play.

The first, non-negotiable pre-requisite for India is that Australia must lose to Pakistan in Wednesday’s day game at SuperSport Park in Centurion. A no-result or even a tie will give Australia the one point they need to advance, rendering India’s night clash against the West Indies at the Wanderers inconsequential.

Should Pakistan do India a favour and beat Australia, then India must comprehensively batter the Caribbeans so that not only do they draw level with Australia on points, they also enjoy a superior nett run rate compared to the defending champions.

The odds are stacked heavily against India. Australia enjoy a nett run rate of +1.000 as opposed to India’s -1.08. That translates to a difference of 104 runs – Australia defeated the West Indies by 50 runs, while India went down to Pakistan by 54 runs, the run rate in abandoned games not coming into play. India must make up this deficit of 104 runs, if both Pakistan and India bat first in their respective encounters and both win their matches, to sneak home ahead of Australia.

In effect, if Australia lose to Pakistan by 30 runs, India must outclass the Caribbeans by 75 runs or more to move ahead on the nett run rate. That scenario will change if India are chasing, or if Australia bat first in their match against Pakistan. In India’s favour is that they will know halfway through their contest exactly what the equation is, but that might count for nothing if Australia defeat Pakistan and go through as the top team from Group A. Calculators and prayers then, and not necessarily in that order.

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