Despite a poor build up to the World Cup, no-one is dismissing India's claims to a second successive title and Matt Harris expects MS Dhoni's men to comfortably progress to next week's semis...
"The defending champions were expected to come through to the quarters but it was a huge surprise to see India win six out of six on their way to the knockouts."
Bangladesh v India
Thursday, 03:30 GMT
Live on Sky Sports World Cup
Most will consider Bangladesh fortunate to be in a World Cup quarter-final after qualifying in fourth place in the weakest of the two groups. A potentially damaging defeat to Australia was averted thanks to the weather before Mashrafe Mortaza's men clinched that winner-takes-all game against possibly the worst England team in 40 years of the tournament.
But there are clear positives and definite threats for Thursday's match: Mahmudullah has been transformed from late overs biffer to a classy batsman at the top of the order. In turn, Bangladesh's top three has changed from a poor imitation of mid-90's pinch hitting Sri Lanka to a more solid unit.
Meanwhile, another transformation has seen Rubel Hossain turn from county-level trundler to develop genuine pace at this level. They are unlikely to trouble their opponents too much but India will be aware of the individual threats.
The defending champions were expected to come through to the quarters in a system that rewards mediocrity but it was a huge surprise to see India win six out of six on their way to the knockouts. The most significant result from those victories was the 130-run defeat of South Africa and while there have been wobbles against West Indies and Zimbabwe, even those matches held many positives.
The top order of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli combined well in the side's comfortable wins but the narrower victories late on showed a resilience that isn't always associated with Indian teams. Dhoni himself proved to be the natural finisher while Suresh Raina is underrated at international level and restrictions on the short ball won't allow teams to target his weakness.
The bowling attack may not be the best and it could be exposed in the later knockout stages but for now, the 2011 winners should have more than enough to progress to the next stage.
Venue and Conditions
Three Pool games at the MCG produced an average first innings score of 327. Australia's 342 against England was the highest while 300 was passed on each occasion. That suggests that both nations should be looking around that 327 mark as an absolute minimum and with all three ties going to the side batting first, winning the toss is naturally important.
The only issue is the weather: No rain is forecast but cloud cover is expected throughout the day giving some potential assistance to the bowlers right at the start.
Bangladesh at [6.2] need Mahmudullah to maintain the form that produced back to back ODI tons while Shakib al-Hasan is a genuine World Class player who also needs a big effort in Melbourne. With support from the likes of Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Rubel Hossain, the outsiders could, 'on their day' cause an upset.
India at [1.18] clearly have the greater quality and those battling wins over the Windies and Zimbabwe tell me that Dhoni's men are switched on for once and fully up for this title defence. I won't be staking against them.
Years of betting in these markets leads to default options around the World: Amla for South Africa, Sangakkara for Sri Lanka and for India, it's usually Virat Kohli. Form, however, suggests there are better alternatives such as Rohit Sharma at [4.7] and Shikhar Dhawan at [4.4] while Raina looks generous at [8.4]. Patience is wearing thin with my pick and I can't give you any real insight other than to say that Kohli at [4.5] is due a big one.
I would not normally risk two top batsman bets on the same game but this one is more about spotting value. Mahmudullah used to be a good option for some late swipes but those two centuries suddenly make him relatively short at [4.9].
As one man shortens, another drifts to accommodate and there is a stand out price of [6.8] next to the name of Mushfiqur Rahim who has given plenty of profit in this market over the last two years. Unusually, this is one man who hasn't really thrived after losing the burden of captaincy but a top score of 71 against Afghanistan suggests he's worth a small stake at a generous figure.
Back Virat Kohli to top score for India at [4.5].
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Matt Harris' World Cup P/L
Staked: 24 pts
Returned: 32.85 pts
P/L: + 8.85 pts