The first semi-final will see the hosts Indians, who are in red hot form, play New Zealand, who have been making the semis consistently over the last couple of editions of the ODI World Cup. Make no mistake, this is going to be a mouth-watering contest between the two top sides in the world in this format of the game. New Zealand have had a good run playing India in the last few years in the ICC events. We all know what happened in Manchester, in the 2019 Worl Cup semifinal with New Zealand edging India to make the final. Then there was the World Test Championship (WTC) final in 2021 wherein they beat the Indians again to lift the historic mace.
India are required to bury the ghosts of 2019 and 2021 to come out on top vs this very good New Zealand side led by Kane Williamson. He leads the Black Caps despite the prevailing finger injury and his presence is a huge boost to New Zealand. He has got runs at No 3 and is a proven leader. Plus, he reduces Tom Latham’s workload. Not to forget, he has unfinished business in the World Cup after losing the 2019 final. He must be fired up to take the field at Wankhede.
In prior World Cups too, New Zealand have done well in games vs India, across the white-ball formats. The fact of the matter is that New Zealand are one of the sides who like playing India in the ICC tournaments and have a knack of winning against the Men in Blue. Yes, they may have lost 4 out of last 5 games in this World Cup but the excellent head-to-head record and India’s current form makes this clash a potential blockbuster.
India are playing at home. I know they have bulldozed their way through to the semis. They have the home advantage. They will have massive support from the crowd at the stadium on Wednesday. But it is also true that they have huge expectations and could be a little nervy playing at the huge theatre called Wankhede. They have not won any ICC titles since 2013 and no World Cups since 2011.
India did manage the pressure well to win the final of the 2011 World Cup vs Sri Lanka at this very ground. Can they do it again and go past the Kiwis to get one inch closer to the third world title? I cannot wait to see how they do that.
A lot of cricket pundits have been saying that these games are won and lost in the first fifteenovers. Losing wickets too soon or bowlers getting absolutely smashed around the park, allowing the top-order to get off to a flier, can make all the difference between the winner and the loser.
In my opinion, in knockouts games, you win the toss, bat first and put on a high score. Then create a lot of pressure with the ball on the chasing side. I think that’s probably the best plan for New Zealand. The Black Caps should take heart from the fact that they got very close to beating India in Dharamsala during the league stage of the World Cup. One or two overs of better cricket at the deep end could have handed them a win. To be honest, New Zealand were the only side in the league stage, who looked very close to beating India.
Mumbai is going to have completely different conditions than Dharamsala or England where New Zealand have had recent success over India in the ICC tournaments in the last couple of years. It will be a lot more humid. One of the more interesting questions is how much will the ball swing and for how long at Wankhede? We saw how Indian pacers performed vs Sri Lanka in the nighttime.
As I said earlier, I feel New Zealand must bat first if they win the toss and post something around 350 to challenge the quality of Indian batting at this venue. The pressure of chasing in a knockout clash is completely different than any other match.
I still feel that pressure will be on India as they need to be playing as good as they have been of late. New Zealand would have been frustrated by losing a match despite scoring 400 with rain factor also coming in to help Pakistan in that game. The Kiwis need to ensure that there is no repeat of it. If Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill get going and dictate, then it will be very difficult to make a comeback.
India’s bowling attack has been in tremendous form. They have been firing on all cylinders. If the the trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami continue to do so in the semis, the New Zealand batting order might have testing times in the first fifteen over bracket.
India and New Zealand semi-final is always a treat for the fans and the world cricket. There is a sort of history attached to them in the ICC tournaments, which makes it a contest worth waiting for. Let’s see who has the last laugh in the end.