When the Indian cricket team, led by Virat Kohli, takes the field against New Zealand in the ongoing Men’s T20 World Cup on Sunday, they will be looking to erase the ghosts of poor records against the Black Caps in major International Cricket Council (ICC) events and write a new chapter in the game’s history.
New Zealand has repeatedly shown to be one of India’s hardest opponents in ICC tournaments, the most recent being the World Test Championship (WTC) final in June. In the previous decade or so, India has crushed every competitive opposition team at ICC events, but they have yet to discover the secret of the Black Caps.
Kiwis don’t depend on individual brilliance, they hunt in unison and always punch above their weight in ICC tournaments. They have a consistent record in the ICC events and one can’t rule them out for a place in the final four.
India’s seven-wicket win in the 2003 World Cup under Sourav Ganguly was the last time they beat the Kiwis in an ICC tournament. Since then India has lost every match to the Black Caps at ICC events and it won’t be an easy task for the Men-in-Blue this time as well.
Last five meetings:
2021 WTC Final: New Zealand beat India by 8 wickets in Southampton
2019 WC semi-final: New Zealand beat India by 18 runs in Manchester
2016 T20 WC: New Zealand beat India by 47 runs in Nagpur
2007 T20 WC: New Zealand beat India by 10 runs in Johannesburg
2003 WC: India beat New Zealand by 7 wickets in Centurion
New Zealand also holds the edge over India in all T20Is. In 16 meetings, it has managed an 8-6 (win-loss) record over India – a success rate of 56.25 being the best for any nation against the Men in Blue in the format.
In the first match of the ongoing T20 World Cup, a fiery opening spell from Pakistan pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi blew apart India’s top order and New Zealand too have tall fast bowlers – Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson and Kyle Jamieson, who can swing the ball in the powerplay overs. India’s top 3 featuring KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli will have to carefully tackle the swing and deadly pace in order to win the battle against Kiwis.
The failure of top-order meant that Indian batters couldn’t take on Pakistan spinners – Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan and Mohammad Hafeez during middle overs and the likes of Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santer are also unlikely to give freebies to ‘Men in Blue’.
In bowling too, the ordinary performances of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja against Pakistan doesn’t give much confidence. But, the inclusion of Shardul Thakur, who is in red-hot form and R Ashwin, can bring some fresh change for India when they face the Black Caps batting line featuring Martin Guptill, Tim Seifert, Kane Williamson, Devon Conway and others.
Though the current Indian squad has stunned everyone with poor performances over the last several years, they have also demonstrated the potential to fight back with a vengeance. This Indian team has made spectacular comebacks whenever their skill has been questioned, whether it was against Australia or England.
It will be difficult, but Virat Kohli’s team has the talent and capacity to beat Kane Williamson’s team on a specific litmus test.
New Zealand, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Scotland, and Namibia are the six teams in Group 2, with the top two teams advancing to the semifinals. If India fails to beat New Zealand, then it could be an interesting race in Group 2 to qualify for the last four.
In the T20 format, any team can beat anyone on any given day, and India will be wary of taking anyone lightly, especially following a humbling 10-wicket loss to arch-rivals Pakistan.
(With IANS inputs)