From what was predicted to be a comfortable start to their T20 World Cup campaign in the UAE, Team India now find themselves in a near dor-or-die situation as they gear up for the crucial tie against New Zealand on October 31 in Dubai.
India stuttered in their opener, against arch-rivals, by an emphatic margin of 10 wickets. And will now be up against the Blackcaps, who as well lost to Pakistan in their opener, with the hope to stay keep semifinal hopes alive.
India have never beaten New Zealand in T20 World Cups, with the two sides meeting only twice before – 2007 and 2016 but have won all their last five T20Is against Kane Williamson’s men which includes two Super Over victories. Overall, the two sides have been inseparable in terms of their head-to-head tie with both winning eight apiece in their 16-match rivalry.
Ahead of the crucial clash on Sunday, we take a look at some of the key battles…
1. Rohit Sharma vs Trent Boult, Tim Southee: A week after his Shaheen Afridi’s devastating opening spell against India that saw the dismissal of Rohit for a duck, the Indian opener will be up against yet another left-arm pacer in Trent Boult. The dismissal was his sixth against the variety in T20 World Cups. Overall, he averages 21.1 and has scored at almost a run-a-ball rate against left-arm pacers since 2019 and figures are more concerning in the powerplay where he averages 19.8 at a strike rate of 114.5 with four dismissals.
Boult has faced Rohit thrice in T20Is, back in 2017, dismissing him twice in 11 deliveries for 15 runs.
Meanwhile, Rohit has also struggled against Southee, having been dismissed thrice in T20Is for a strike rate of just 111.5. In their last meeting, in 2020, Rohit scored just 23 off 22 and was dismissed once.
2. KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma vs Mitchell Santner: If New Zealand start with Trent Boult, Williamson might fancy Mitchell Santner rolling his arms from the other end. Rohit has a strike rate of 118.6 in T20s since 2020 against the left-arm orthodox variety, the second least after left-arm pacers, and Santner has already dismissed him twice in international cricket. Rahul, on the other hand, has a strike rate of just 97.1 against this type of attack in the T20s during the same period. Although, in their only T20I meeting, Rahul scored 55 off 33 against Santner in the five-match series in 2020.
3. Virat Kohli vs Ish Sodhi: The Indian skipper has a strike rate of just 94.9 against the right-arm leg break variety has been dismissed twice in T20s since 2020. Sodhi loves playing against India, having picked 17 wickets which is the most by a bowler in T20Is, and more so enjoys bowling against Kohli, who he has dismissed twice in 31 balls for just 39 runs.
4. Martin Guptill vs Jasprit Bumrah: An early wicket will be imperative for India and hence Kohli might want to start with Bumrah against Guptill, who he has dismissed Guptill twice in 27 deliveries in T20Is for just 28 runs and once in IPL.
5. Kane Williamson vs Varun Chakravarthy: In the last two years in T20 cricket, Williamson has shown signs of discomfort against the right-arm leg break variety, scoring at a strike rate of just 110.3, the second-lowest among all types of attack after left-arm pace. And in the last two IPL campaigns in the UAE, his strike rate against the variety fell to 102.8 for just one dismissal. India might want to go with Varun against the New Zealand skipper, whom he has faced twice in IPL with the batter managing two runs off four balls.