After opening match defeats to Pakistan, India and New Zealand meet in Dubai wanting to get their respective T20 World Cup campaigns back on track.
For fans around the world, India versus New Zealand in recent years has been box office viewing. From the 2019 Cricket World Cup semi-final, to the inaugural World Test Championship final, a rivalry of sorts has been forged.
While New Zealand had the final say in both of those matches, they have no bearing on what lies ahead today: a potential T20 World Cup classic in the heat of Dubai.
Before the tournament, New Zealand and India most likely earmarked each other for their toughest games in Group 2 of the T20 World Cup. Now, the pair look at the fixture as a potentially make-or-break meeting.
After struggling with the ferocity of Shaheen Afridi’s pace and swing, India’s top order will no doubt face New Zealand left-armer Trent Boult in similar circumstances, though it was spinner Mitchell Santner and quick Tim Southee that Kane Williamson went to first in their first match. For the Black Caps, improvement with the bat is also crucial. Despite five players reaching double figures in their first match, no player passed 30, in a team display that lacked rhythm or pace.
Desperate to avoid slumping to two defeats to begin their campaigns, it would take something special from either team making the final four with a loss. It puts an extra emphasis on the fixture, with little margin for error from here on in.
While it isn’t panic stations yet for India, Shadul Thakur is an option to come in for Virat Kohli should they want make changes, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar the likely player to give way.
Hardik Pandya’s fitness has been a hot topic in the lead-up, and after bowling with little issue in the nets, should give Virat Kohli another option with the ball.
India possible XI: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur/Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Chakravarthy, Jasprit Bumrah
New Zealand should have Martin Guptill at their disposal, even after sustaining a blow to a toe on his left foot in the their first match. Adam Milne is also fit to play, though may still miss out behind quick attack of Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
New Zealand possible XI: Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Kane Williamson (c), Devon Conway, Glenn Phillips, James Neesham, Tim Seifert, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult
After a duck in the first match of India’s campaign, Rohit Sharma will look to bounce back against New Zealand. Making 60* and 65 in his last two T20I innings against the Black Caps back in 2020, the right-hander has been a tricky customer to deal with for Kane Williamson, and should come in with confidence despite early tournament jitters.
On the verge of 3000 T20I runs (2956), Martin Guptill’s is crucial for Kane Williamson and the Black Caps desperate to open their World Cup account.
Making double figures in seven of his last eight innings in T20I cricket, Guptill will aim to bring consistency at the top of the order, should it be in an opening partnership with Daryl Mitchell or a new top-order partner.
After defeats to a strong Pakistan to begin their respective campaigns, this match could well decide a second semi-final spot. A defeat for either team means they’ll likely need to rely on other results to go their way on top of winning the rest of their matches.
What they said
India captain Virat Kohli on outside scrutiny: “We, as individuals, understand what we want to do on the field. And the strength of character and mental toughness we have and precisely why we are doing what we are doing on the field and none of these people are even in the vicinity to even imagine to do something like that, they do not have the courage or the spine to do that.”
New Zealand quick Trent Boult on the match being a quasi-knockout fixture: “Every game is a good game. We’ve had a few lay days in between games already. But we’re excited to get out there. Definitely want to get a check in the win column for us.
“All games are a big win. But here’s hoping we can really go out there and put together the things that we’ve been trying to and get out to a real good start.