Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma (Photo: AFP)
Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma (Photo: AFP)

India can’t afford to be complacent against the Kiwis

  • India will be quietly confident about their semi-final chances against New Zealand, the team that Australia, too, would have wanted to face rather than England
  • Virat Kohli and his men are experienced enough to know that any complacency could lead to their downfall

1) Lucky to be in the semis

The Kiwis are lucky to be in the semi-finals after back-to-back losses against Pakistan, Australia and England. A washout of the league game against India means they haven’t beaten any semi-finalist yet. Their only convincing wins were against two bottom-ranked Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. They won those by such huge margins that their net run rate went out of reach for Pakistan, who were tied with them on 11 points.

2) Keen to play the Kiwis

Both India and Australia were keen to play the Kiwis. India steamrolled Sri Lanka in their last game to top the league. Australia fell 10 runs short in their bid to regain the top spot as South Africa had their best day of the World Cup. Apart from the chance to play the perceived weakest team in the semi-finals, India and Australia also wanted to avoid England at their favourite ground of Edgbaston in Birmingham. India will be happy they took the bus to Manchester instead, having lost to England in Birmingham.

3) Mind games before the knockouts

New Zealand and Australia have been eager to portray their semi-final opponents India and England as the favourites. “The World Cup is England’s to lose," quipped Aussie spinner Nathan Lyon, making it out like the Aussies will be just going out there for fun. Kiwi coach Gary Stead was more sedate in remarking, “The level of expectation is more on India than what it is on New Zealand." But the intent is the same—to put butterflies in the stomach of the rival before the big game.

4) Dhoni will be a target

A cloudy day and morning showers are forecast for Manchester, which will help New Zealand’s seamers. Trent Boult will be the main danger as he can swing the ball into Rohit Sharma and K.L. Rahul. “If we can get these guys out early and put pressure on the middle order, that will be massive. It will be crucial to get Dhoni in there early and expose him," says Kiwi bowling coach Shane Jurgensen.

5) Get the playing XI right

India will want to play Ravindra Jadeja, who showed against Sri Lanka how hard it gets when the ball grips and turns at the pace he bowls. Of the two wrist-spinners, Kuldeep Yadav has been better than Yuzvendra Chahal at Old Trafford. So he might be the one to partner Jadeja. The other decision for India is whether to play Bhuvaneshwar Kumar as third seamer or Dinesh Karthik as the seventh batsman. Mohammed Shami is a must for his wicket-taking with the new ball. So, either Bhuvi or Karthik should sit out.

Sumit Chakraberty is the author of 2019 Cricket World Cup Thinking Cap.