WC semifinal: India’s dominance vs New Zealand’s perseverance
Mumbai: A relentless India rocketed through their league engagements with nine wins on the bounce but the past record is just a shiny antique in a showcase and the hosts will have to be at their gun-slinging best when they face familiar foes New Zealand in the first World Cup semifinal, here Wednesday.
The 2019 Manchester heartbreak might be lingering in a corner of the hosts’ mind as an irritant. The Kiwis also had the measure of India in the ICC WTC Final in 2021, if one needs more attestation of the Kiwis’ grip over the latter in global events.
However, this Indian side has shown a propensity to rise above an uncomfortable past, but they will be aware that any slip up at the Wankhede Stadium will be viewed as a national catastrophe, shattering a billion hearts.
So, India will also have to rise above the pressure emanating out of those enormous expectations placed on them, also heightened by their league phase bull run.
Captain Rohit and coach Rahul Dravid, two individuals who know all about the pitfalls of heavy expectations, will have to keep their outfit calm, nestled away from the fear of failure in a crunch match.
But those are more matters of the mind. There are just as significant matters to take care of on the field.
To start with, the Indian team and its legion of fans will hope and pray that Rohit calls it right at the toss. The teams batting second at this venue have invariably lost early wickets in clusters under lights with the new ball moving dangerously in the air and off the deck.
Both India and New Zealand have bowlers who can inflict severe damage with the new ball.
In that context, a lot will depend on the fearless approach of Indian openers — Rohit and Shubman Gill.
The Mumbaikar has so far made 503 runs and will hope for a continuation, but Gill with a tally of 270 runs from seven matches would like to own the stage with a blistering effort against the Kiwis.
Virat Kohli is now the top run-getter in the tournament with 593 runs, and the landmark of 50 ODI hundreds is waiting to be reached. He would like to marry the milestone with an Indian victory.
Kohli would also like to break the semifinal jinx after getting dismissed for one in the 2019 and 2015 edition.
India will also be delighted to see their middle-order batters KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer hitting top form ahead of the semis though the management will welcome some runs from Suryakumar Yadav.
Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav have been as lethal as they ever have been but the limelight, to a large extent, has been stolen by Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj who have been unplayable when on song.
In this World Cup, no other bowling attack has produced a masterclass in bowling on flat wickets than India’s.
But that said, writing off Kiwis’ pace troika of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson and left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner will be naive.
They have enough experience and skill to make an impact even on a shirtfront, and will also hope to prey on any pressure India faces in front of the home crowd. For India, a win is non-negotiable and the Blackcaps can play all-out cricket knowing that they really have not much to lose.
In batting also, New Zealand have enough depth and experience to counter the marauding India bowlers.
The young Rachin Ravindra (565 runs) is the find of the tournament, but Devon Conway is short of big scores his unbeaten 152 against England in the tournament opener was the only time he scored fifty or above.
Captain Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell are the middle-order lynchpins but New Zealand do not match India’s firepower on paper, but they certainly have the ability to dig deep.
So, it all boils down to who will manage the pressure moments better and we might just have a cracker.
India: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer (wk), KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishan Kishan (wk), Prasidh Krishna, Suryakumar Yadav.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham (wk), Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips (wk), Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Will Young.
Match starts at 2:00 PM.