Hyderabad: There is trepidation as India take on New Zealand in their second match of the Group 2 Super 12 match on Sunday. The humiliating loss to Pakistan in the first match has clearly put Virat Kohli’s men on the backfoot. That defeat will haunt them for long. Unfortunately, New Zealand have also been India’s bugbear. India have not won a single match in the last 18 years in ICC events against New Zealand. In the recent skirmishes against New Zealand, India lost in the 2019 World Cup semifinals and the World Test Championship final. They now have to dig deep into their resources to overcome the New Zealand phobia.
But then Pakistan never won against India in World Cups before this. However, they did win the other day convincingly. India, too, expect to turn things around against New Zealand this time. Kohli would expect the law of averages to be in his favour in Sunday’s crucial clash.
The odds are stacked but Kohli’s men have shown character and resilience in Test matches against Australia and England or in recent matches. This is the hour of reckoning. Any false step would mean the end of the campaign. It is do or die for India.
India run into a team that has a tremendous record in ICC events. But like India, New Zealand too suffered a loss at the hands of the in-form Pakistan. Kane Williamson and his boys will also be gingerly shaky against India. It will be test of captaincy for both Kohli and Williamson.
It was Shaheen Afridi who turned the match in favour of Pakistan in the first two overs when he dismissed Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul. India could never recover from the early setback though Kohli came up with yet another half century. New Zealand would expect their left arm seamer Trent Boult to do an Afridi as he also can bring the ball in sharply. The in-coming ball or a yorker at a good pace has troubled both Rohit and Rahul. Therefore, both the openers will have to overcome the opening overs blues.
Given the dew factor, the toss has become a crucial factor. Unfortunately, Kohli has a bad record with the coin. The wily Tim Southee has also a very record against India in big events. The aggressive Surya Kumar Yadav has lost his touch and has not put up a decent score in recent times. There are many who feel that Ishan Kishan is the right batter at the top who can destroy the attack at the start of the innings.
If one goes by the first match performance, there would be the temptation or second thought to continue with half-fit Hardik Pandya and out-of-form Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Pandya even went for a scan after he got hit by a bouncer but he was cleared of any injury. India needs a fully fit Pandya, who can bowl and fire with the bat in the death overs. Bhuvneshwar looked ordinary in the first match. He is struggling. Mohammed Shami also leaked too many runs. He was trolled badly leading to a social media uproar. The Indian seamer hopefully would come out of that nightmare.
That India could not take a single wicket is also a big concern. The Indian think-tank would ponder whether to continue with ‘mystery’ spinner Varun Chakravarthy or bring in experienced off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Former Indian skipper Mohammed Azharuddin feels that Ashwin, who has the ability to take wickets, should be played ahead of Chakravarthy. “It is a pressure game and we need bowlers like Ashwin and (Jasprit) Bumrah to take wickets,’’ he said. The length is the key here. The India bowlers’ plans went awry and were plundered by Mohammed Rizwan and Babar Azam in the opener.
New Zealand have their own worries. Opener Martin Guptill has a foot injury. He is a dangerous opener. The Kiwis would hope Williamson to come good and so also Devon Convoy.
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