Finally, it is here. The ICC World T20 2016 begins with a mouthwatering match – India vs New Zealand. A match between two teams capable of going all the way, while playing some delightful (read six-hitting) cricket as well.
India have played the best T20 cricket in 2016, winning a couple of bilateral series, before clinching the Asia Cup T20 title with great aplomb. Those wins and the fact that the World T20 will be held in home conditions have naturally made MS Dhoni's men the favourites for the WT20 title, and there really is only one way to get that we-are-in-it-to-win-it ball rolling – by beating New Zealand in the opening Super 10 Group 2 match at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur Tuesday.
On paper, India have a pretty strong lineup – the top order batting is there, so is the middle order, with the lower middle order capable of tonking a few into the crowd, if necessary. The bowling looks pretty good as well, with Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah providing the fast bowling ammunition, along with the skiddy Hardik Pandya, while Dhoni has two world-class spinners to play with in R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
What looks good on paper does not necessarily translate into results on the pitch, but this India side have produced just that – wins, wins and more wins. They have lost just one out of the 11 T20I games played in 2016, and that was on a type of wicket, which we will not see in this World T20.
So, New Zealand have a pretty difficult task ahead of them – of curbing the Indian batting enthusiasm, while finding a way past the bowling lineup.
The Kiwis certainly have the talent to overcome the latter challenge, especially with the form that their batsmen are in. Martin Guptill has been ridiculous in the limited-overs game for New Zealand, while Kane Williamson provides that calm head that the others can bat round. Colin Munro has found his T20 groove, while Ross Taylor comes with bags and bags of experience. Corey Anderson, Grant Elliott and Luke Ronchi will provide the final thrust.
So, that is potentially a pretty devastating batting lineup. The question, with the Nagpur pitch expected to be low and slow, though, will be: Can New Zealand find their batting mojo in Indian conditions?
Ashwin and Jadeja are the masters when it comes to exploiting a proper Indian wickets, and how the New Zealand batsmen play these two slow bowlers will be the key. If the Kiwis can counter the spin threat, the pressure will be right back on India, and Dhoni will be forced to rethink his strategy.
That is precisely what New Zealand need to do – get India to switch to Plan B and then Plan C and, if possible, even Plan D. if India manage to keep their heads above water even after all that pressure, then, fair enough, they deserve to win. What New Zealand need to ensure is that they apply that pressure from ball one to ball number 240.
Where to Watch Live
India vs New Zealand – the opening match of the ICC World T20 2016 – is scheduled for a 7.30 p.m. IST (3 a.m. NZT, 2 p.m. GMT, 9 a.m. ET) start. Live TV coverage of the entire match in India, and the rest of South Asia, will be on Star Sports 1, Star Sports 3, Star Sports HD1 and Star Sports HD3. Starsports.com and Hotstar are the online live streaming options.
Sky Sport 1 will broadcast the World T20 opening match live in New Zealand, with the live stream option on Sky Go NZ.
Fox Sports 3 will show the match live in Australia, while the action can also be live streamed on Foxtel.
Willow TV and Willow TV Online will provide live coverage of the WT20 Match 1 in the US and Canada.
Viewers in the Middle East and North Africa can watch India vs New Zealand live on their TV screens on OSN Sports Cricket, while the match can also be live streamed on OSN Play.
SuperSport 2 is the TV channel which will show the match live in South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa, with the live streaming option on SuperSport Live Video.
Star Cricket will broadcast the match live in Singapore and Hong Kong. Astro Sport is the place to be to watch the game live in Malaysia.