Black and Blue
Mumbai: One team is flying high, the sobriquet of the other is a flightless bird. The gap is evident as all-conquering Indians play unsteady Kiwis in a World Cup semifinal at the venerated Wankhede on Wednesday.
The Blues bulldozed to the top of the table by winning all nine league matches with mega margins while New Zealand’s campaign has been a mixed bag. They were speedy off the blocks, registering four victories on the trot before slumping to an equal number of straight losses before picking themselves up in the last game against Sri Lanka, a quick win against whom eventually sealed their spot in the semis as the fourth-placed side.
Kiwi opener Rachin Ravindra has been sensational. He has scored three centuries and two fifties so far and sits third on the batting chart with 565 runs, ahead of Indian captain Rohit Sharma (503) and behind South Africa’s Quinton de Kock (591) while Virat Kohli leads the list with 594.
Then there are dependable batsmen in Devon Conway, Daryl Mitchell and captain Kane Williamson. Glenn Phillips can give the ball some whack down the order.
However, New Zealand’s bowling attack — pacers Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson and left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner — is not much to boast of, going by the totals conceded in most of their league games. The 200 in 25.3 overs to Pakistan will hurt especially.
On the other hand, the Indian machine is purring, so much so that the absence of injured allrounder Hardik Pandya due to injury has been hardly felt, thanks to performers aplenty. It’s been ‘clinical’ as Rohit puts it -- just what the Doctor ordered.
Rohit and Shubhman Gill have given the side superb starts while Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer and K. L. Rahul have bolstered the top. With Suryakumar Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja in the middle, the batting looks compact. Indian batsmen have scored 20 half-centuries in this World Cup, surpassing their 2019 record of 19.
Kohli had missed scoring his 49th ODI century when India last played at the Wankhede (against Sri Lanka) but brought it up at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata in the next match (vs South Africa) to match Sachin Tendulkar’s record. He would be eager to get his third ton of the tournament to overtake the legend at his home ground which now houses a life-size statue of the Little Master. Kohli had fallen five runs short of the three-figure mark when India played New Zealand in the league stage at Dharamsala.
The bowling, boom! On-song Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohmmed Siraj have made the rivals dance, twist and shout before left-arm spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja had them in knots. Bumrah and Jadeja have the second and third best economy rates in the tournament with 3.65 and 3.97 respectively from nine innings.
For the record, the match will be a repeat of the 2019 World Cup semifinal. New Zealand had beaten India by 18 runs in Manchester before being pipped by England on the boundary countback rule in the title round.
This, however, should be a different ball game.