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HomesportscricketIndia hope to clip Kiwi wings

India hope to clip Kiwi wings

Dharamsala: Those iconic stadium steeples, the Dauladhar mountain range in the background, the thin air, the perpetual dance of sun and shadow followed by an eerie moon…

In these poetry-inspiring conditions, the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association stadium will become the theatre for a tournament-defining contest as India and New Zealand run into each other with a point to prove on Sunday.

The two teams are the only teams in the tournament to not lose a game, and although that comes as no surprise given India’s host status and general proficiency in the format over the years, it is nonplussing that New Zealand top the table at the moment.

And that they have managed this without Kane Williamson’s services is even more impressive, but then again, the Kiwis do have a track record of congealing admirably at big events.

While their record in the knockout stages could do with a boost, it must be remembered that this side, mostly the same squad even, is the one that felled India in the semifinals of the last tournament.

Rohit Sharma and Co drew a fair bit of flak for that humiliation, but have since become a more comprehensive side. In fact, had it not been for Hardik Pandya’s ankle, they would have been going into this contest odds-on favourite.

It doesn’t help India either that New Zealand, who are still without Williamson, are now bolstered by the availability of Tim Southee. How they go about this problem of plenty will be interesting, and how India sort themselves out without their Haridik-shaped talisman will be even more interesting.

Now to see if the game can be worthy of a venue destined for dreams and gods.

Team talk

INDIA:Hardik Pandya’s ankle injury has certainly given the Rohit-Rahul combine something to concern themselves with, but given how many such injury issues they have had to deal with in the months leading up to the World Cup, they won’t be entirely unprepared. Surely, they have their eyes on bringing Mohammed Shami on at this point, but will they do that at the cost of losing some batting prowess? They could well given how complete that facet of the team has looked.

NEW ZEALAND:Tim Southee’s return is as much a blessing as it is a curse for the Kiwis because now they will have to, quickly, decide on which pacer to drop. That said, they might not want to tweak with a combination which has given them four wins on the trot. Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Lockie Fergusson are dangerous enough on their own, but Southee’s experience and these conditions sure make him a shoo-in.

Players in spotlight:

The man born for the spotlight is obviously the one who will shepherd the responsibilities of a big score or an efficient chase. Virat Kohli has looked his dangerous best from the start of the tournament, and this despite Rohit and Shubman Gill giving viewers plenty of batting joy. Kohli’s latest epic, the century against Bangladesh a few of days ago, will be on the mind of the bowlers but what can they do to deny the genius another one of his moments?

It’s easy to turn a blind eye to the effectiveness of spinners in conditions such as these, but when that bowler is Mitchell Santner, it wouldn’t be the most prudent of approaches. The left-arm spinner’s stringency and astuteness are reminiscent of Daniel Vettori, and that’s not a spinner you wanted to take on either. Saunter is going to be crucial to the Kiwis, and the fact that he is the highest wicket-taker in this tournament so far only amplifies his significance.

Pitch/Conditions

It’s dangerously beautiful so much so that one can’t be faulted for spending more time looking away from the field of play, but those clouds which hover over the mountain range do prompt one to reckon that rain is in the air. As for the pitch, it will play true and quick, and the balls will have little resistance from the thin air so expect a ton of runs at this small venue.

Teams:

INDIA:Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav.

NEW ZEALAND:Tom Latham (capt), Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Will Young.

Form guide:

INDIA: W, W, W, W, L.

NEW ZEALAND: W, W, W, W, W.

Match starts at 2pm

(Published 21 October 2023, 15:38 IST)

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