CWC : India, NZ crave for reversing fortunes at Wankhede

Mumbai, Nov 14 (Bureau) Having not reached the finals on the last five occasions at the ICC Men’s ODI World Cups, this time the Men in Blue want to reverse this at a venue where they won their last title back in 2011. New Zealand, on the other hand, have never won any, despite reaching three finals in seven years. Both sides would like to change their fortunes when they lock horns at the iconic Wankhede Stadium in the first semifinal of the tournament here on Wednesday. Of late, India-New Zealand encounters have been exciting, and yet another faceoff at the biggest ODI event, takes the fans to the 2019 semifinal memories when both teams met at the Old Trafford in Manchester. Then, India lost the nail-biting classic, despite Ravindra Jadeja and Mahendra Singh Dhoni doing their best, but failed to guide India to the finals. India’s progression to this World Cup semifinal has been even more serene than it was in England four years ago, with Rohit Sharma’s side winning all nine games, and rarely even looking like being challenged on their path to the knockout stages. In this script so far, Virat Kohli and Rohit have been the protagonists.

Kohli has scored more runs, but the India captain has repeatedly set the tone for India throughout with his exceptional form. His 503 runs have come at a strike rate of 121.49, helping India to get off to the sort of starts that have taken run-rate pressure off those in the middle order. Getting Rohit early will be vital to New Zealand’s hopes of beating the tournament hosts. India’s bowling superstar Jasprit Bumrah has been consistently outstanding throughout the tournament to-date. Bumrah’s Powerplay numbers are exceptional, and if he can squeeze New Zealand’s openers then that will go a long way to halting the Black Caps with the bat. Bumrah is the all-round package – brilliant up-top, threatening through the middle and skilled at the death. And his numbers in the tournament are outstanding – 17 wickets from nine matches at an average of 15.64 and a fantastic economy of 3.65. No bowler to have played more than one match can better that economy rate in the tournament. New Zealand’s journey in this tournament has been chequered as they had started strongly by winning the first four matches, and losing next four before pulling off a very vital win against Sri Lanka at Chinnaswamy Stadium with a huge margin to virtually book a semifinal spot. The breakout star of this World Cup is undoubtedly New Zealand’s Rachin Ravindra.

The spin-bowling all-rounder was a known talent, but few would have predicted just how brilliant his batting has been for the Kiwis. A handy squad member at the start of the campaign, Ravindra is now a lock in the first XI and will look to take the attack back to India. Only Quinton de Kock and Kohli have scored more runs than the New Zealander 565 in nine innings. If Ravindra gets away against the country that his parents herald from then New Zealand will have a big chance. The loss of Matt Henry from New Zealand’s attack was a significant blow, and the pressure will be on Tim Southee to deliver on the big stage. Southee has no lack of experience and will know that he needs to provide quality support for Trent Boult with the new ball and protect Lockie Ferguson for the middle overs as much as possible. If Southee is expensive then India will already have a huge advantage even before they look to target the combination of all-rounders who will provide the fifth-set of 10 overs for the Black Caps. All said and done, the distinct red-soil pitch at the Wankhede will no doubt play its part. In whose favour it will play, time will tell. Squads India squad: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishan Kishan, Prasidh Krishna, Suryakumar Yadav. New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitch Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Will Young.