Okay, for a change we aren’t discussing about an India-Sri Lanka game in the Emerald nation. Still, the India-New Zealand clash on Wednesday will be a highly significant affair in the context of the ongoing tri-series. As aptly pointed out by Indian skipper MS Dhoni, the game will be a virtual semi-final, with the winner joining the home team in the finals. Interestingly, both teams have had similar fortunes thus far, with a win one day and a disappointing loss on the next occasion. This is what makes the tussle between the two sides intriguing and very well-matched. Whichever team can leave their worst form back in the pavilion will benefit the most from the clash.
Starting with India, they entered the tournament with massive bowling worries. However, scores of 88 and 104 have meant that their batting deficiencies have also been seriously exposed. The problem begins right at the top, with Dinesh Karthik being unable to fit into the shoes of Gautam Gambhir. As a result, Virender Sehwag’s task has become doubly difficult. And while he has succeeded in helping India clinch one win, it is crucial from India’s point of view for him to find some support.
The non-performing youngsters are proving to be another bane in India’s build up to the World Cup. While Rohit Sharma has been a little unlucky with some close lbw shouts, the reality is that he still hasn’t ironed out the flaws in his game. And when you consider that he has been around the international circuit for a good four years now, it is a danger signal. His dismissals in the last two games have been as good as carbon copies.
For a while Virat Kohli looked settled at the number three slot. However, with Sachin Tendulkar shuttling in and out of the ODI team at his own will, Kohli has had to move up and down the order. And if his recent string of scores is taken into consideration, it hasn’t helped his cause at all. He might get one more chance to prove his worth again in place of, maybe, either Karthik or Sharma. It remains to be seen how he reacts if such an opportunity comes his way on Wednesday. A note on Ravindra Jadeja is essential too. While his bowling has been decent for a while, except the T20 World Cup, his batting skills haven’t come to the fore. And so, India need to decide very quickly whether they want him in the scheme of things for the 2011 World Cup.
Bizarre as it may sound, India’s bowling looks stronger in comparison. That, however, epitomizes the team’s batting debacles more than anything else. Still, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Ashish Nehra have done reasonably well in the series. And when the ball moves around, as it has been doing in Lanka, they aren’t the worst trio. Thankfully for the Indians, Pragyan Ojha has stepped up his game, as a result of which India haven’t missed Harbhajan Singh much. And anyways, the Punjab off-spinner wasn’t having a great time with the ball himself.
Shifting focus to the Kiwis, they have their own concerns. The inexperienced batting line-up was found out against Sri Lanka. Also, it hasn’t helped that their last game against the home team was washed out. Considering the leisurely schedule of the tournament, (the players wouldn’t be complaining) the wash out means the Kiwis haven’t batted out in the middle for well over a week. India would be hoping to take advantage of the rustiness, if any has crept in. Further, their batting looks brittle if ones takes away Scott Styris and Ross Taylor. Things seem worse when you add the fact that Jacom Oram is back on the ‘I am injured’ list, even though Martin Guptill’s expected comeback should cheer up the Kiwi camp.
Like India, their bowling too wears a stronger look in the presence of Daryl Tuffey and Kyle Mills, with the experienced Styris for support. India will need to be wary of the opening bowlers as the new ball has been doing plenty in the initial stages, and the batsmen have been guilty of not applying themselves. The pitch, once again, will play a crucial role. With the rain around, some movement has to be expected both at the start of the game as well as under lights.
Dhoni’s luck at the toss may have changed in the previous game, but he wouldn’t mind retaining the losing streak if the team continues to win. On a more serious note, winning or losing the toss notwithstanding, application should be the keyword for both sides.
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