Mumbai: It’s not Manchester, it’s Mumbai. It’s not 2019, it’s 2023. But most of the characters of that compellingplay, performed at the World Cup theatre four years ago, are back. Only, this time, the blustery English background will be replaced by the palpablegravity of the Wankhede stadium and the circumstances.
It’s not the last stop, that’s expectedly saved for Ahmedabad, but it is going to become so for either India or New Zealand as they sharpen their knives for what is going to be a carving contest on Wednesday.
All this considered, the gulf of skill and confidence between the sides after the end of the nine league games is far too apparent to not anoint India with the tag of favourites going into the first semifinal.
It’s the one they have assumed a fair few times in the past, but their rather bleak record against New Zealand at ICC events would force one to query the stance. India have won all nine games in the league phase, including the dismembering of the Kiwis in Dharamsala a couple of weeks ago. That is a good enough reason to smear the label on them. Also, this Indian unit is making a case for being one of the best-ever teams at the (not this) quadrennial event.
That said, time and again India have ceded their elegance and dominance at the feet of New Zealand’s professionalism. So, this is it. Crunch time. Let’s see who has the ‘it’ factor.
India: Shreyas Iyer is low on the totem pole of skill, style and execution when relativised with other batting stars in the India line-up, but isolate him and it becomes plenty apparent that he is one the best in the business. One didn’t need the blinder against the Netherlands to confirm the same, but it sure did get those who had taken their eye off weapon No.4 in India’s unending armoury to focus again.
New Zealand: Mitchell Santner isn’t fooling anyone with those Clark Kent spectacles anymore! Everyone in the batting demography is aware of just how good this left-arm spinner is and they respect him much the same. With a hitched shoulder release, Santner has become the nemesis of those who like to free their arms. He wasn’t as successful against India the last time around, but then again, the rest of his team-mates weren’t either.
Players in the spotlight:
India:Rohit Sharma may not come away from this tournament with a string of centuries as he did in 2019, but his strike rate and subsequent impact on the texture of the game, means a fair bit more than it reveals. Rohit is going at 121.49 at the top of the order, and that, besides allowing Shubman Gill and others to settle in, also damages the psyche of the opposition.
New Zealand:The boy-next-door has become quite a menace this World Cup, and Rachin Ravindra will attempt to do the same in the semifinals. It won’t be easy, not even for New Zealand’s highest run-getter in this tournament, but if there’s anyone who can turn into Kiwis’ southpaw saviour, it’s him. It helps that he fits the swoon-worthy archetype of an elegant left-handed batter.
There isn’t a better time of the year to be in this part of the world because humidity levels are down and the wind quotient is high. It’s all rather very pleasant. That sentiment extends to how batters would feel batting on this surface. It’s a small ground with a big vibe, and India, who won their last World Cup here, would feel more at home here than most other venues.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Devon Conway, Rachin Ravindra, Glenn Phillips, Tom Latham (wk), Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Mark Chapman, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Will Young.
India: Virat Kohli: Mat: 9, Innings: 9, NO: 3, Runs: 594, Highest: 103*, Average: 99, SR: 88.52, 100s: 2, 50s: 5.
New Zealand: Best batter: Rachin Ravindra: Mat: 9, Innings: 9, NO: 1. Runs: 565, Highest: 123*, Average: 70.62, SR: 108.44, 100s: 3, 50s: 2.
India: Jasprit Bumrah, Mat: 9, Inn: 9, Overs: 72.5, Wkts: 17, BBI: 4/39, Ave: 15.64, Econ: 3.65, SR: 25.7.
New Zealand: Mitchell Santner: Mat: 9; Inn: 9, Overs: 82.4, Runs: 398, Wkts: 16, BBI: 5/59, Ave: 24.87, Econ: 4.81, SR: 31.
India vs NZ at ICC events
50-over World Cup
Matches: 10, Ind: 4, NZ: 5, NR: 1
T20 World Cup
Matches: 3, Ind: 0, NZ: 3, NR: 0
Matches: 1: Ind: 0, NZ: 1, NR: 0
World Test Championship
Matches: 5, Ind: 1, NZ: 3, Draws/ NR: 1
Total: Mat: 19, Ind: 5, NZ: 12, Draws/ NR: 2
(Published 13 November 2023, 18:36 IST)