Team India will rekindle its rivalry with New Zealand when the two sides meet in the first semi-final of the 2023 World Cup on Wednesday. Four years ago, it was Kane Williamson’s side that emerged victorious at this stage over India in a closely-fought semi-final; the men in blue, then led by Virat Kohli, faced a 21-run loss in Manchester to bow out of the tournament. In 2021, India faced another heartbreaking defeat against the Kiwis during the final of the World Test Championship.
However, India will be aiming to end the knock-out curse against the familiar foes when the two sides meet at the iconic Wankhede Stadium. Rohit Sharma’s men have surged through the league stage with an impeccable nine consecutive victories, but the match against New Zealand will undoubtedly bring forth the shadows of past encounters. Despite India’s demonstrated ability to overcome a challenging history, they are acutely aware that any misstep at the Wankhede Stadium could hurt the side deeply as it chases a first ICC trophy since 2013.
India favourites, but Kiwis hold psychological edge
The Indian team, resilient and determined, faces a New Zealand pace troika consisting of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, and left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner. Underestimating their experience and skill on any pitch would be a mistake, and the Kiwis hope to capitalise on any pressure the Indian team may feel in front of their home crowd. Likewise, the Kiwi bowling attack won’t rest on past laurels; in this World Cup, the star batting duo of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli has been sensational, with the latter currently being the highest run-scorer in the edition.
India further boast of a solid pace attack in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Mohammed Siraj, who wreaked havoc on teams throughout the group stage. In this high-stakes match, a victory is non-negotiable for India, while the Blackcaps can adopt an all-out cricket approach, knowing they have relatively little to lose.
In terms of batting, New Zealand boast depth and experience to counter India’s formidable bowling attack. The young sensation Rachin Ravindra, with 565 runs, has been a standout performer in the tournament, while Devon Conway, despite a lack of substantial scores, has the potential to make a significant impact. Captain Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell serve as the middle-order lynchpins, but on paper, New Zealand may not match India’s firepower.
Nevertheless, they possess the resilience to dig deep and create substantial challenges for their formidable opponents.