Former New Zealand all-rounder James Franklin says his compatriots won’t be daunted by the “best” India side in history when they face the hosts for a place in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 final.
The 2019 semifinalists will meet at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday after India topped the points table by winning all nine matches in the group stage. New Zealand finished fourth with five wins and will look to reach a third consecutive final, having lost in 2015 and 2019.
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Franklin played for the Blackcaps from 2001 to 2013 and has plenty of experience playing at the Wankhede, thanks to his Indian Premier League (IPL) stint with five-time winners Mumbai Indians.
“India will feel they have no holes in their game both tactically and form-wise,” Franklin told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.
“There are players from the past that would be part of an all-time Indian one-day international (ODI) XI, but it is hard to look past this team as the best ever XI.
“India are on a roll and don’t seem to have any chinks in their armour.”
No pressure on home favourites India
The 41-year-old said the hosts have a great mix of youth and experience in their batting lineup, which has established stars Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli but also confident young players in the form of Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer.
“It’s a little bit worrying from a world point of view that they [Gill and Iyer] are actually going to be pretty good for a few years yet.”
India won the 2011 Cricket World Cup, which they jointly hosted with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. MS Dhoni’s side overcame Sri Lanka at the same venue as Wednesday’s semifinal to add one more title to their 1983 win in England.
The weight of expectations didn’t get to India then, and Franklin believes it will not get to them this time either as they go for a third crown.
“People talk about pressure on the Indian team and that it might get a bit too much for them, but that’s not the case” he said.
Franklin pointed to Indian great Sachin Tendulkar’s review of the 2011 final, in which, he said, the team turned the pressure in their favour in the form of the Indian nation of “a billion people lifting us up and pushing us along”.
“This Indian team views it the same way,” Franklin said.
Rahul Dravid reflects on India's successful journey across nine cities in #CWC23 💪
— ICC (@ICC) November 13, 2023
Powerplays hold the key for New Zealand
India won their group stage match against New Zealand with ease in Dharamsala, where Daryl Mitchell’s century was in vain as Mohammed Shami took five wickets and Kohli fell just short of a century in the chase.
According to Franklin, the key for New Zealand will be to put brakes on India at the start of each innings – something they did not do well in their last meeting.
“It is going to come down to how well New Zealand can compete in the two powerplays,” he said.
“If India have a semblance of control after the powerplays, it will be very tough for New Zealand as that’s where India have been dominant.”
Franklin, who was part of New Zealand’s World Cup squad in 2011, believes his compatriots must fight to keep their team ahead in the first 10 overs in both halves of the match.
Rohit and Gill have put many an attack to the sword with their early batting onslaught in the tournament, and Franklin thinks his former IPL captain’s high strike rate makes him a very dangerous player.
“Rohit has been playing a slightly different role and has shown a lot more intent,” Franklin said. “We know his pedigree as an ODI batter.”
Franklin thinks New Zealand’s pacers Trent Boult and Tim Southee must remove the “phenomenal” Rohit, who has “stepped up his strike rate”.
India’s seamers have ‘caused chaos’
It hasn’t just been the Indian batting that has caught the eye at this World Cup. Their seam bowling attack has also propelled them to the verge of being regarded as their best ever.
Jasprit Bumrah has been ever reliable opening the bowling after his return from two years of injury battles, as has Mohammed Siraj.
The Indians have coped admirably with the injury that saw Hardik Pandya limp out of the World Cup. Mohammed Shami has taken Pandya’s place and with it plenty of wickets.
Franklin said India’s trio of seamers has “caused chaos”.
“After the seamers, it’s the spin duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav, who are miserly with the ball and pick up a few wickets between them.”
Stand-out performances with the ball 🤩
The best figures at the #CWC23 so far. Will we see any new entries in the knockout stage? 🤔
— ICC Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) November 14, 2023
‘New Zealand won’t be daunted’
New Zealand vanquished some of the pain of losing the 2019 final by opening this tournament with a victory against defending champions England.
If they can overcome India, it would be an astonishing third consecutive appearance in the World Cup final, having also lost in 2015 to Australia.
“New Zealand won’t be daunted,” Franklin insisted.
“They have guys that have been there and been involved with big ICC world events, and they have a number of guys that have experience in the IPL and have performed well.
“They understand the crowds and pressure of big games that get thrown into the melting pot, and their cricket psyche is such that they always turn up committed to perform on the day.”
Rachin Ravindra mesmerised the world with his phenomenal performance at #CWC23, earning him the ICC Men's Player of the Month award 🏅
— ICC (@ICC) November 10, 2023