India’s captain Virat Kohli addresses media representatives during a press conference at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England on Monday, ahead of their 2019 Cricket World Cup semi-final match against New Zealand. (More reports on page 13) (AFP/ Dibyangshu Sarkar)
INDIA TAKE ON KIWIS IN 1ST SEMIS TODAY
IT HAS been a dream World Cup campaign for Virat Kohli’s men and now everything boils down to having two perfect days. The quest starts with the semi-final clash against New Zealand here on Tuesday. And though the formidable Indian top-order, led by tournament top-scorer Rohit Sharma, is expected to deliver, New Zealand’s seam attack will also be ready and waiting to knock at the corridor of uncertainty.
It has been a campaign in which Kohli and his men have been successfully able to hide their chinks even without a suitable ‘Plan B’ but they don’t have an option of letting the script go awry anymore. The sub-plots promise to be fascinating — Rohit trying to hook a Lockie Ferguson bouncer, KL Rahul negotiating one from Trent Boult that could tail in, Kohli smashing Matt Henry all around.
Or it could be Kane Williamson’s near perfect technique against spinners or Ross Taylor trying to get a grip of Jasprit Bumrah. Last but not the least is whether Mahendra Singh Dhoni is able to get a hang of Mitchell Santner’s slow left-arm orthodox bowling having watched him closely at the Chennai Super Kings nets. A near flawless campaign could come to a naught against a gutsy Black Caps side which has always asked probing questions in ICC tournaments.
To India’s comfort, New Zealand’s tournament has gone on a downward spiral during their last three games but their initial good work helped them beat Pakistan to a last four spot. But it couldn’t have been more enticing that Rohit (647), KL Rahul (360) and Virat Kohli (442) with a cumulative contribution of 1347 runs will meet their match in Ferguson (17 wickets), Boult (15 wickets) and Matt Henry (10 wickets), who have shared 42 wickets between them. Not to forget that all-rounder Jimmy Neesham (11 wickets) and Colin de Grandhomme (5 wickets) take the seamers’ tally to 58 wickets. ‘Law of averages’ can be a worry for India simply because the top-order hasn’t had a failure as such, even the loss against England saw Rohit and Kohli score runs.