In an interesting co-incidence, India will play in their semi-final of the ICC 2019 World Cup, the only team that they didn't have a match against in the league stage – New Zealand. Most people foresee an Indian victory and do not think the Kiwis capable of stopping the Indian juggernaut. However, if there is one thing that we know about this great game of cricket, it is that nothing can be taken for granted. Additionally, the Black Caps have more than enough quality and firepower to defeat any side on its day.
So, which way will the tide turn on July 9 when Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson lead their teams onto the field of the Old Trafford stadium? We don't know. But we can safely predict that the result of the match would depend on some key factors and how they play out. Let us look at these 5 factors and analyse them carefully. .
For some reason, winning the toss and batting first seems to be a huge advantage in the World Cup. For all the talk of England's prowess at chasing, they lost three times while batting second and even other teams have struggled when faced with big scores in the first innings. Hence, batting first may well be extremely crucial to the two sides. However, if clouds come around, then they may want to bowl due to the presence of high-quality swing bowlers in their line-ups. While India have the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, their opponents possess Trent Boult and Mark Henry. In overcast conditions, either team can do great damage with the new ball. In other words, the toss may play as big role as any other factor in deciding the match.
Indian top-order vs New Zealand seamers with the new ball
The Kiwis possess one of the best seam-bowling line-ups in this tournament. Trent Boult is among the best swing bowlers in world cricket and his form has been brilliant of late. Both Mark Henry and Tim Southee can provide excellent support to Boult. While Southee was one of the protagonists of New Zealand's brilliant run in the previous World Cup, it is Mark Henry who has been the preferred choice in this tournament. With the Indian team over-dependant on its top-order, how well these three seamers bowl to them may well decide the fate of the game. If Boult and co. can remove Virat and Rohit Sharma early, India will be in serious trouble. Otherwise, New Zealand's chances would sink without trace.
Form of Martin Guptill
One of the reasons why New Zealand performed so well in the 2015 World Cup was the dominance of their openers. Both Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill were in scintillating form and they put the opposition bowlers under pressure right from the beginning. But in this edition of ODI cricket's biggest tournament, Guptill has been out of knick for a long time. But he can make amends for all his failures so far by a big innings against India. The big-hitting right-hander will be tested to the hilt with high-quality bowlers such as Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar gunning for him. If he can get through their initial spell, a big innings may be on the cards. Considering the firepower that Guptill possesses, a big knock from him could well deliver the knockout blow to India.
Williamson and Taylor
The strong core or the spine of New Zealand's batting lies with their two best batsmen – Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor. It's not as if these two are the only ones who can pose a threat to India. There are other batsmen like Tom Latham and Jimmy Neesham who are capable of scoring big also but in a big match like this, against a strong opposition like India, one gets the feeling that either one, if not both, Taylor and Williamson will have to take the lead and guide their team to a big total. Both have already played many memorable knocks in their career but nothing would beat a big hundred against India in the semis. How they perform would be one of the biggest factors in deciding the outcome.
India's approach to Santner
He may be highly underrated but Mitchell Santner is a very good left-arm spinner. Like Daniel Vettori, Santner also has subtle variations of pace, flight and line to trouble the batsmen. Indians have been, to say the least, too circumspect against the spinners. In their matches against Afghanistan, West Indies and Bangladesh, the quality spinners of these teams tied down Indian batsmen and prevented them from accelerating fully in the final overs. Hence, the contest between Santner and Indian batsmen would be both riveting and extremely crucial.