India take on New Zealand in one of the most crucial Super 12 matches in Group 2 of T20 World Cup 2021 at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday, October 31. Both the teams are heading into the crunch contest on the back of defeats to Pakistan who are running away at the top of the group with 3 wins from as many matches.
India captain Virat Kohli looked calm and composed when he was addressing the media on the eve of the big-ticket contest in Dubai. While he was condemning the online abuse of Mohammed Shami in strongly-worded statements, there were a few important statements that the skipper made that gave us a sneak peek of his mindset in the lead up to what is going to be a stiff test of his character.
The team that loses on Sunday is likely to find it difficult to progress to the semi-final stage. Quite a few have labeled India vs New Zealand as a virtual quarter-final but Afghanistan’s hammering of Scotland and their spirited performance against Pakistan have added an interesting flavor to Group 2, which isn’t as packed as the other one in the Super 12.
“Whether people portray it as India can’t afford to lose another game, that’s none of our business. We will play sport as we understand exactly how sport goes. How people think on the outside has no value whatsoever inside the group,” Kohli said on Saturday.
India need another memorable comeback in 2021
Virat Kohli’s captaincy reign in T20 World Cups did not get off to a good start. In fact, he became the first Indian skipper to lose a World Cup match to Pakistan in a World Cup. India were blown away by a spirited Pakistan side led by Babar Azam but ruling out the Men in Blue as early as after just one match is unwise, to say the least.
Be it the 36-all out in Adelaide or the Chennai Test hammering against England, India have made it a habit to come back stronger from setbacks in 2021. Virat Kohli’s men possess the firepower to test the best in the business in the T20 World Cup and there is no reason why this heavily-scrutinised bunch can’t step up once again.
Having had a week’s break, India must have had enough time to learn from their mistakes and work on them but such a big gap between two matches can also work against them, especially in a format as fickle as T20s.
India’s job is not getting any easier as they face New Zealand, who have been their nemesis in the recent past In fact, the Asian giants have not beaten the BlackCaps in an ICC event since 2003. Their recent exits from ICC events have come because of New Zealand — the 2019 World Cup semi-final and the ICC World Test Championship final earlier this year.
Team News – Will Hardik Pandya retain his place in the side?
Hardik Pandya has started bowling at the nets as India seem to have realized that having a 6th-bowling option is necessary after Pakistan cruised to a 152-run target without losing a wicket and 13 balls to spare last Sunday.
Virat Kohli made a U-turn as he stressed the need for a 6th bowling option, hinting Hardik will be able to bowl an over of two if needed.
“It’s very important to have a sixth bowling option — whether through me or Hardik (Pandya). He should have to be fit to be able to bowl one or two overs,” he said.
While the spotlight has been on Hardik’s bowling, India have lacked firepower in their pace bowling unit as the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami struggled to even look threatening against Pakistan. Kohli highlighted the importance of Shardul Thakur but remained tight-lipped about the team combination.
It will be interesting to see if India make changes to their bowling combination but it looks likely their batting will remain unchanged. With the likes of R Ashwin and Thakur available for selection, India will look to beef up their bowling department.
Martin Guptill fit for India clash on Sunday
On the other hand, New Zealand would want their skipper Kane Williamson to find top form. Struggling with an elbow niggle, Williamson hasn’t looked the part so far, be it in IPL 2021 or in their defeat to Pakistan. However, they can breathe easy as Martin Guptill is available for selection after an injury scare.
New Zealand have lost Lockie Ferguson but they have received a boost as pacer Adam Milne is available for selection. He can inject pace into the side if New Zealand decide to bring him in place of Tim Southee.
India vs New Zealand, T20 World Cup 2021 Squads
India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Varun Chakravarthy, Shardul Thakur, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishan Kishan, Rahul Chahar
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Devon Conway, Tim Seifert (wk), James Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Mark Chapman, Adam Milne, Kyle Jamieson, Todd Astle.