With four wins from as many games, India are assured of a place in the last eight. However, they would be keen to maintain their winning momentum and finish on top, since that would mean India will have to play the fourth placed team from the other group in the quarter-finals. Also, India have got into a winning habit, and they would want it to continue right through to the knockouts. Even if India win one of their remaining two games, they will most probably end up on top of the table. But, considering the opponents are Ireland and Zimbabwe, they should be extremely disappointed if they don't win both, especially considering the form they have been in.
The Ireland game will be a different challenge of sorts for the Indians. After playing their first four matches in Australia, they would now be heading to New Zealand, and will take on the Irish at Seddon Park in Hamilton. For more than three months, India have been in Australia, losing game after game, before turning things around in the World Cup. Now, as they move to New Zealand, it would be interesting to see how quickly they make the adjustment. The conditions in New Zealand are vastly different from those found in Australia. And, Indians are not known to be smooth beginners. The change of conditions thus gives Ireland an outside chance of catching the Indians off-guard.
It would be interesting to observe what India do with their team combination. They have a settled outfit in place for now, but Stuart Binny was chosen in the final World Cup squad specifically because he could exploit conditions in New Zealand with his swing bowling. The trio of Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma have been extremely successful in Aussie conditions. But, the fact is that all of them are 'hit the deck' bowlers. As such, they may not be as successful in Kiwi conditions. At the same time, India will not be too keen to tinker with the winning combination. If anything, Binny might be brought in for Ravindra Jadeja.
Although, India have been undefeated in the tournament, they had their moments of trouble against West Indies. On a pitch that offered bounce and pace to the Windies pacers, the Indian batsmen struggled against the short ball. Jerome Taylor and Andre Russell were successful in unsettling quite a few form batsmen. The ball will definitely move around in New Zealand, and India's batsmen have struggled under such conditions in the past. Ireland may not possess great bowling talent in the pace department, but India must ensure that they come up with a competent performance to get their batting back in shape.
As for Ireland, they will find it tough to win against India given that they do not have the bowlers to trouble an in-form Indian batting line-up. At the same time, they would be aware that they have an outside chance to make it to the quarter-finals. For that, they will have to ensure that their net run-rate is not hit badly against India. Their win against Zimbabwe did give them two points, but the close margin of victory hurt their run rate. Yet again, Ireland will be looking up to their batsmen, who are in great form, to stand up and deliver. Having been thrashed by South Africa, Ireland would be keen on putting up an improved show against the Indians.
--By A Cricket Analyst