India vs New Zealand always makes an excellent contest and the fact that it is the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 makes it even better. On paper, both the teams look quite well matched and that is how the contest should be.
Strengths & weaknesses-
Both India and New Zealand squads have been quite similar in terms of their strengths and weaknesses so far in this tournament. Both have a strong bowling attack comprising of good variety. What New Zealand lack without the likes of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal is fulfilled by the seam bowling all-rounders that they have in the form of James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme. The control that India get with the guile of the spinners during middle overs is matched by the pace of Lockie Ferguson. If India have a strong top order and a little weaker middle order, New Zealand’s top order has been out of nick while their middle order has delivered. It is an even contest and both teams must do their basics right to get through.
Another interesting fact is that, the current captains of both teams Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson, who rose through the ranks of Under 19 cricket, led the two sides during the 2008 U-19 semi-finals. Ravindra Jadeja, Trent Boult and Tim Southee also participated in the U-19 semis.
For India to win the contest though, they must do these three things properly.
1. Get Williamson early-
Kane Williamson has been in great form recently and is a match winner for New Zealand. He has scored 481 runs in the tournament so far and is the highest run scorer for New Zealand. He has, on his own, won matches for New Zealand in this World Cup and will be a thorn in India’s side. Williamson, once set is also a good player of spin bowling and can take on the likes of Kuldeep and Chahal to create pressure on the Indian bowling.
Virat Kohli was the one who dismissed Kane Williamson in the 2008 U-19 World Cup semi-finals which India won by 3 wickets.
2. Win the middle phase-
India have to play the crucial middle phase well if they have to win the game. While batting, India will have to face the pace of Lockie Ferguson, who has picked up 17 wickets in the tournament so far. Ferguson picked up a small injury and was rested for New Zealand’s final league match and is expected to be fresh and running for the semi-finals. Indian spinners, will also face a tough opposition as New Zealand’s middle order consists of batsmen like Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Tom Latham, who are good players of spin bowling.
3. Build a good opening partnership-
One of the major causes of India’s success apart from its bowling has been the top order. Rohit Sharma has scored five centuries and Shikhar Dhawan was in good form before getting injured. His replacement, KL Rahul, has also done a good job and scored a century in the last match. Also, the top order has to shield the relatively inexperienced and out of form middle order. MS Dhoni hasn’t been on top of his form and Rishabh Pant is still very inexperienced. Hence, it is extremely important for the top order to fire.