World Cup 2019: India have to middle it vs New Zealand
Virat Kohli & Co will hope inconsistent middle-order comes good, while NZ will look to dismiss India's top three batsmen early to expose this weakness
MANCHESTER: New Zealand and England have never won the ICC World Cup, while their respective semi-final opponents, India and Australia, have claimed it multiple times. That sets up a couple of intriguing contests as table-toppers India take on the Kiwis at Old Trafford today, and the two traditional rivals cross swords at Edgbaston on Thursday.
Of the four teams, India have been the most consistent at this World Cup, though not necessarily the most impressive. The biggest advantage they have is their winning streak, having dropped just one game. Their top-order is in top form, while their bowlers have been efficient too. On the other hand, New Zealand, who had started impressively, are off the boil, having lost their last three games and managed the semi-final spot by edging out Pakistan on Net Run Rate.
Thus, on current form, one would consider India the firm favourites to go through to their fourth final, of which they won two (1983, 2011) and lost one (2003). However, India captain Virat Kohli was spot-on when he insists that history, form, ratings and momentum have little meaning when two top teams battle in the middle, and that the side that plays well on the day and handles the pressure better is most likely to triumph.India's MS Dhoni at net practice in Old Trafford yesterday. PICS/AFP
India’s top-order has been in tremendous form, with Rohit Sharma, the leading run-getter in the league phase with five hundreds having formed a formidable opening partnership with KL Rahul, who notched up a century in the last match against Sri Lanka. Kohli has been consistently scoring half-centuries and is due for a big one. India’s only concern is the lack of big runs from the middle-order, which has not been tested sufficiently. Hopefully, the knockout phase will turn out differently for them.
India will be in a dilemma about their combination for this match. It is almost certain that they will play with two spinners. So it will be either Ravindra Jadeja or Kuldeep Yadav, who will join Yuzvendra Chahal, while pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar may make way for Mohammed Shami.
On the batting front, there is a bit of concern about Rishabh Pant’s form, especially the way he has given away his wicket in the past, playing reckless shots. However, with few options at hand, the team management may well retain him as well as Dinesh Karthik in the playing XI.
Though India impressively won their last game chasing, they would like to bat first in this knockout encounter, put up a big total and put the opposition under pressure. Kohli however, maintained that his team was apt at chasing down a total too.
As for the New Zealanders, they would be desperate to get the top three Indian batsmen out as early as possible and expose the weak middle-order, and from thereon, go for the kill.
Thus, though India are overwhelming favourites, it will be a keen contest between the teams whose league match in Nottingham was washed out due to rain.
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