Who: India vs New Zealand (live coverage)
When: Wednesday, November 15, 2pm (08:30 GMT)
Where: Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, India
India may be the outstanding team at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, but coach Rahul Dravid has warned their semifinal against New Zealand in Mumbai represents the “pointy end in a tournament”.
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The hosts go into the match with a perfect played nine, won nine record – the first time any side had achieved such a feat at a World Cup featuring a round-robin format.
“You’re at a pointy end in a tournament now,” Dravid said.
“There is going to be certain amount of pressure but I think the way we have responded to the pressure so far gives us a lot of belief.”
India are well stocked in all departments, with star batter Virat Kohli the tournament’s leading batsman with 594 runs and captain Rohit Sharma not far behind on 503.
India also boast a formidable fast-bowling lineup in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami.
If successful teams are fortunate as well as good, then India certainly had a lucky break when an injury to all-rounder Hardik Pandya paved the way for Shami’s return, with the experienced seamer having since taken 16 wickets in five matches at a stunningly low average of under 10.
In addition, spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav are also capable of taking wickets without being flogged for runs.
Rohit leading by example
Wednesday’s match takes place at Rohit’s Wankhede Stadium home ground, where India bowled out Sri Lanka for just 55 to win by 302 runs in the group stage, with the aggressive 36-year-old opener leading from the front at what could be his last World Cup.
Dravid said Rohit’s batting has “cracked open” games for his team.
“We’ve talked about playing in a particular way. You cannot do that unless your leader really buys in and actually shows by example.”
And yet the fact remains India have been waiting since a 2011 triumph over Sri Lanka in Mumbai to win a third World Cup title, while their last major piece of silverware was the 2013 Champions Trophy.
Rohit said while a semifinal was a high pressure situation, his side were always under intense scrutiny in cricket-crazy India.
“If you are an Indian cricketer, then whatever the format, whatever the tournament, there is always pressure. Because you hear the same voice from everywhere that we have to win the match tomorrow…So, I think in terms of pressure, it becomes mandatory for Indian cricketers.
“There is pressure, but we have tried so hard in all these years to keep that aside and focus more on our game, strategy, and the way we play,” he added.
Before this World Cup, Rohit spoke about having “unfinished business”, with the 36-year-old saying Wednesday: “Now it’s just about business, the pure business of getting the job done for the team.”
‘Everything starts again’
New Zealand, in contrast to India, are in the semifinals despite losing four of their nine group games but will approach the match with a clean slate and confidence in their ability to upstage the in-form hosts.
Williamson, who returned from knee surgery for the World Cup and recovered from a fractured finger during it, is expecting a tough test.
“We know it’s going to be a really tough challenge. They’re a side that’s been playing extremely well, but we also know come finals time everything starts again and it’s all about the day,” Williamson told reporters in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
New Zealand’s proven pace trio of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson are capable of succeeding against even the strongest batting lineup, with miserly left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner an often under-rated threat.
Runners-up at the last two World Cups, New Zealand also boast a break-out rising star in Rachin Ravindra, with the 23-year-old left-hander having already scored 565 runs.
The son of Indian-born parents, Ravindra is also the first New Zealander to compile three hundreds at a single World Cup, earning rich praise from his captain.
“It’s not just the volume of runs that he’s achieved so far but how he’s been scoring them and how it’s been geared towards trying to move the team forward,” Williamson said.
Williamson, who knows India well from playing in the Indian Premier League, added: “We’re expecting a fairly blue crowd that will be supporting their team.”
There’s not much to be said about India’s form after they have gone unbeaten in a home tournament.
Meanwhile, New Zealand have seen a resurgence after their mid-tournament blip and will look to build on their big win over Sri Lanka.
India: W W W W W
New Zealand: W L L L L
New Zealand hold a slight edge in their 10 World Cup meetings with India, having won five matches, including the 2019 semifinal. Meanwhile, India have won four, including their last match in Dharamshala last month. One match, at the 2019 World Cup, ended in a no-result due to a washout.
India team news
Barring any last-minute injury concerns, India are certain to field the same team that has taken them to the semifinals.
Predicted XI: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj
New Zealand team news
New Zealand are set to field the same team that beat Sri Lanka in their last group match.
Predicted XI: Devon Conway, Rachin Ravindra, Kane Williamson (captain), Daryl Mitchell, Tom Latham, Glenn Phillips, Mark Chapman, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult