A big record is sure to be broken in the World Cup semi-finals to be held at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium. New Zealand has defeated India consecutively in the last four knockout matches in different formats. Whereas New Zealand itself has been out of the tournament after losing three times in a row to the countries that have organized the last three ODI World Cups.
When the teams of India and New Zealand face each other on Wednesday afternoon, there will definitely be something in their mind that now a new record has to be made, no matter in whose favor it is. If we look at the history of the ODI World Cup, the stability of the New Zealand team will be easily understood. Since 2007, this team has made it to the semi-finals of every World Cup.
Out of which New Zealand reached the finals in 2015 and 2019 and lost the 2019 finals after a very thrilling match. In 2021, the same team also defeated India in the final of the World Test Championship.
Former New Zealand wicketkeeper-batsman Ian Smith, who is commentating on the current tournament, “New Zealand's current and many previous teams have had one quality. The team does not play around one or two or three star players. The team believes in all-round performance which depends on the current form of the player.”
The memories of the sour defeat by New Zealand in the semi-finals of the last World Cup are still fresh and most of the players from that team are also in this playing eleven. The scores of Indian top order batsmen while chasing New Zealand's 239 runs in that match played in Manchester were as follows:
KL Rahul – 1 run
Rohit Sharma – 1 run
Virat Kohli- 1 run
Dinesh Karthik- 6 runs
Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya had played innings of 32-32 runs and Dhoni could hardly score 50 runs after playing a slow innings and was not in his prime form. Only Ravindra Jadeja played fast and added 77 runs in just 59 balls but that was not enough.
New Zealand had made a strong start to the 2023 World Cup by winning their first four matches, which included a crushing defeat to defending champions England in the first match. Their victory chariot in the competition was stopped only by India by defeating them by four wickets in Dharamshala.
After this, New Zealand was pushed down in the points table by defeats by Australia, South Africa and Pakistan and they could reach the semi-finals only by winning their last match.
But it is important to remember that despite scoring 400+ runs, they lost to Pakistan in the match which was interrupted due to rain, whereas in the matches against India and Australia, the margin of defeat was less and the result could have gone either way.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain feels that, “New Zealand must have learned a lesson and recovered from the setbacks it faced in the middle of the tournament. Now only two more matches are left and his batting, bowling and fielding have been completely tested, both good and bad.
New Zealand's batting has been showing wonders since the beginning of this tournament. Rachin Ravindra is scoring runs from his bat while captain Kane Williamson is looking in strong form after returning from injury. Although Devon Conway is a bit away from his true form, Daryl Mitchell continues to score big and play the fast bowlers well.
If captain Williamson and Rachin successfully face the Indian pace attack, then it may be difficult to stop them from scoring runs in the middle overs.
But the names who can pose a threat to Indian batting are Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson. The ball swings well after evening on the Wankhede pitch and this has been clearly visible in the last several matches. The Indian team had all out Sri Lanka for just 55 runs and the fast bowlers of Afghanistan had taken four wickets of Australia within the score of 50 runs.
However, if India bowls in the second innings, Bumrah, Shami and Siraj will also benefit from it. On the other hand, New Zealand's opening batsman Devon Conway has said that, “To defeat India, the team will also rely on the experience of its senior players”.
In a video released by the New Zealand Cricket Board, Conway said, “We all know what a good team India is. They are a strong squad and are playing with good momentum but we are also looking forward to this challenge.
The kind of cricket that the Indian team has played in the last nine matches is no less than a dream run. According to Ali Martin, cricket critic of The Guardian newspaper, “Even the Indian team would not have expected to get 18 points in nine matches before the start of the tournament. But after every match their morale increased and the team has also learned lessons from past mistakes.”
The biggest difference has been seen in India's fast bowling because the balls of Bumrah, Siraj and Shami have stunned the opposition batsmen. In the tournament, Shami has 16 wickets in five matches, Bumrah has 17 wickets in nine matches and Siraj has taken 12 wickets in nine matches.
That means all three together have taken 45 wickets so far which includes the top order of each team. The Indian batting has performed as per its talent throughout the tournament, with Rohit Sharma and Gill's aggressive starts, Virat Kohli's consistent scoring in the middle order, Shreyas Iyer's consistent performance, and KL Rahul's support.
To be strong in this match, India will have to play the first 10 overs without losing wickets, especially if it has to chase New Zealand's score in case of losing the toss. That is why the role of toss is going to be important in Wankhede because whichever team wins it will want to bat first. Also, India will hope that its fast bowlers also prove to be effective soon because in the absence of Hardik Pandya, the pressure on Jadeja and Kuldeep will increase.
It is important to remember that when both the teams met in Dharamshala, Jadeja could not get a single wicket in his 10 overs. Indian coach Rahul Dravid, while talking to Star Sports before the semi-finals, said, “I would be wrong in saying that there is no pressure before the semi-finals. There is no guarantee of winning any game in the game of cricket. All you can do is prepare well and that is what we have been doing.