A near-invincible India start as favourites against an inconsistent New Zealand in the first semi-final of World Cup 2023 in Mumbai on Wednesday.
India have looked the best team of the World Cup by a big margin, storming into the semi-finals with nine straight wins in the league stage.
On the other hand, New Zealand have blown hot and cold, starting with four wins followed by four losses before they sneaked in to the semis with a last-gasp victory against Sri Lanka in their final league game.
No team has found a formula to stop the Indian juggernaut which has blown away every team apart with both bat and ball.
Captain Rohit Sharma has led the team admirably well. With his batters and bowlers firing on all cylinders, his job has been pretty easy so far.
Rohit himself has taken the onus with the bat to set the tone in the Powerplay with his ultra-aggressive approach. After getting bowled out for a duck in the opening game against Australia, the India skipper had ripped apart every bowling attack that he has faced — smashing 503 runs in nine games at a strike rate of 121, with a century and three fifties.
His long-standing team-mate Virat Kohli has proved to be India’s Mr Consistent in World Cup 2023. Except for a duck against England and 16 against Pakistan, Kohli has crossed atleast the 50 run mark in the other seven innings. He is the highest run-getter in the tournament with 594 runs at an average of 99, including two centuries and five fifties.
If he gets another hundred in the last two games, he would become the first person in the history of 50 overs cricket to get to the coveted landmark of 50 centuries.
Shubman Gill has also regained his form, with two fifties from his last three innings, while Shreyas Iyer seems to have overcome his short ball woes. He smashed a brilliant 128 not out against The Netherlands to continue his recent good form, hitting 77 against South Africa and 82 against Sri Lanka in the previous two matches.
Iyer’s positive approach at No 4 in the middle overs has given the Indian batting the much-needed menacing look.
K L Rahul has proved to be the backbone of the Indian batting line-up with 347 runs at a strike rate of 93, with a century and a fifty. Suryakumar Yadav at No 6 has played a couple of impactful knock to ease India’s worries after the injury withdrawal of all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
Ravindra Jadeja (111 runs) is quite handy with the bat as he proved with a vital knock of 39 not out against New Zealand in a tight run chase. However, the real worry starts after Jadeja with India boasting of a long tail in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Kuldeep Yadav.
The consistent showing by the top and middle order batters has made sure that India never really needed to depend on their last four batters to bail them out. But if a situation does arise, when they suffer a batting collapse or lose quick wickets in the middle the lack of runs from the tailenders might become a decisive factor.
But the bowlers with their stupendous showing with the ball have definitely ensured that they don’t need to do much with the bat.
India’s bowling has torn apart every opposition batting line-up they have come up against to play a big role in their unbeaten run in the league stage.
Jasprit Bumrah has led the way with 17 wickets in nine games at an economy rate of 3.65, while his new ball partner Mohammed Siraj has bagged 12 wickets.
Mohammed Shami has taken the World Cup by storm ever since he came back into the team with 16 wickets in five games at an amazing strike rate of wicket every 12 balls, including two five-wicket hauls and one four-wicket haul.
Spin twins Ravindra Jadeja (16 wickets) and Kuldeep Yadav (14 wickets) with a combined tally of 30 wickets have done their job to perfection, not only stifling the opposition in the middle overs, but also chipping away at the wickets.
India have bowled out their opposition in seven out of the nine games played in the league stage.
Such has been India’s dominance that they have taken the toss completely out of the picture. The hosts won their first five games chasing targets before they triumphed in their next four batting first giving ample proof that there is no visible weakness in their team.
India have fielded the same playing XI in the last five games since Hardik Pandya’s injury forced them to include five specialist bowlers. Even in the inconsequential match against The Netherlands, they opted not to rest their key players as the team management wanted to ensure that the players didn’t take their foot off the pedal.
On paper India, playing at home, are the out-and-out favourites but you can never count out a spirited team like New Zealand.
In Kane Williamson they have a leader who has made New Zealand be counted among the top teams in the world for their sheer determination and fighting spirit.
After missing a few games because of injury, Williamson played in the crucial match against Pakistan despite not having recovered from the blow on his thumb and went on to smash 95. Coming into the tournament following a long injury lay-off, Williamson has played only three games so far, but has hit fifties in two of those.
The find of the World Cup has been the New Zealand young batting sensation Rachin Ravindra. The left-hander has relished the batting-friendly conditions in India — the country where his parents were born — to amass a record 564 runs in nine games with three centuries and two fifties — the most runs by a batter in his maiden ODI World Cup.
Daryl Mitchell is a vital cog in their batting line-up. He is a very good player of spin as he proved during his century against India in the league stage, while Devon Conway is gradually getting back to his best form.
Glenn Phillips has played a few cameos in the final few overs and his role with both bat and ball will be crucial in the semi-finals.
The Kiwis will be hoping that veteran Trent Boult does some damage with the new ball which could be the only way to stop the Indians in their tracks. Rohit Sharma has got out a few times to incoming deliveries from left-arm pace bowlers and Boult will be looking to use that as his main weapon against the India skipper.
Tim Southee is an old warhorse with a lot of experience bowling in Indian conditions thanks to the IPL, while Lockie Ferguson’s extra pace makes him an ideal bowler to deal with the likes of Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer.
Left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner has been in good form in the World Cup with 16 wickets from five games and he is capable of giving India some headaches if the pitch does offer him a bit of assistance.
It remains to be seen if the Kiwis opt to play an extra spinner or a fast bowler on the Wankhede pitch which has traditionally high scoring games in white ball cricket.
India will be expected not to tinker with their winning combination and continue with the same playing XI, they will be keeping a keen eye on what the Kiwis do with their team.
New Zealand hold a slight edge against India when it comes to ODI World Cups, having won five out of nine matches played in total.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, K L Rahul (wicket-keeper), Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj.
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- World Cup 2023
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