Even though they finished the league stage with nine straight wins, India will begin from scratch when they take on New Zealand in the first semi-final in Mumbai on Wednesday, November 15, 2023.
India will remember the results of the past two World Cups ahead of the last four clash against the Kiwis. In the 2015 and 2019 editions, India were the superior team in the league stages but perished in the semi-finals both times.
India will be gunning for revenge against the Kiwis, who were responsible for their ouster in the semis four years ago. The famed Indian batting line-up had then failed to chase down 230 against an inspired Kiwi attack in a match spread over two days because of rain at Old Trafford in Manchester.
Despite being hailed as one of the best teams across formats in the last 8 to 10 years, it has become worrying trend for India to miss out on the silverware in ICC events.
Since winning the 2013 Champions Trophy, India have failed to win another global event across formats.
In the 50 overs format, apart from the semi-final losses in the last two World Cups, they finished runners up in the 2017 Champions Trophy, losing to Pakistan in the final.
In the T20 formats, they were beaten by Sri Lanka in the final of the 2014 T20 World Cup. They bowed out of the semi-finals in the T20 World Cup last year after losing to England and also at the same stage at the T20 World Cups in 2015 and 2016.
They finished on the losing side in the World Test Championship final twice — in 2021 and 2023 with defeats against New Zealand and Australia respectively.
While the agony of the past will be at the back of their minds, Captain Rohit Sharma and Head Coach Rahul Dravid will hope the extra pressure of playing a knockout match before home fans doesn’t affect their players.
With nine straight wins — most of them pretty lopsided — no one will bet against India when they take on the Kiwis. But it will be important to look back at their clash in Dharamsala earlier in the World Cup.
New Zealand were one of the few teams who stood up to the rampaging Indian pace attack as they put up a healthy 273 despite Mohammed Shami taking 5/54.
The Kiwis were well placed to finish in the range of around 330-340 after being well-placed at 205/3 in the 37th over before Shami and Kuldeep Yadav triggered a late collapse, with seven wickets falling for 68 runs.
India did have a few nervy moments in the run chase despite a blazing start from Rohit and Virat Kohli’s 95 as they slipped to 191/5 but Ravindra Jadeja saved the day with a fluent 39 from 44 balls.
The Kiwis, except for Captain Kane Williamson, don’t boast of many superstars but their team has been built around hardworking talented individuals like Rachin Ravindra, Daryl Mitchell, Devon Conway, Mitchell Santner and Trent Boult — who collectively form a cohesive match-winning unit capable of upsetting any team on their day.
Ravindra has taken the World Cup by storm while you can always expect Mitchell to perform in big games along with Boult and Santner.
Despite their invincible run, India just can’t step on the field and expect to win against a team like New Zealand, whose greatest strength is their never-say-die team spirit.
After starting the World Cup with four straight wins, the Kiwis stumbled and suffered four defeats in a row before recovering to beat Sri Lanka and claim their place in the semi-finals.
They overpowered England by nine wickets in their first game and nearly chased down 389 against Australia — falling just short by just five runs, before they suffered a shocking defeat against Pakistan despite scoring 401/6 as weather played a part with rain reducing the match to 25.3 overs.
While India have unlooked unstoppable in the league stages, the pressure of a knockout game is vastly different, something which Dravid is also vary of.
‘It’s a knockout game. We have to accept the fact that there’s going to be a certain amount of pressure,’ Dravid said after winning the match against The Netherlands.
Rohit (2007 T20 World Cup) and Kohli (2011 ODI World Cup) have both been part of World Cup-winning teams, but then they were just young players on the verge of breaking out.
This time, India’s fate depends on the veteran duo. If they can continue their good form in the final two games and the bowlers continue their rampaging run, no one can stop India from winning their third ODI World Cup title.
Rohit still regrets narrowly missing out on the 2011 World Cup at home and this could be the perfect opportunity to make up for that, while Kohli — the best player of his generation — has the golden opportunity as the first Indian player to win two World Cups along with Ravichandran Ashwin, who hasn’t had much game time so far.
With the youngsters like Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer and K L Rahul standing up at different times and a bowling attack which has destroyed every team they have come up against, the World Cup trophy is up for taking for India.
Since the start of the century, India have made it to two finals and two semis in five ODI World Cups but have just ONE title to show for.
It’s high time to end that barren run!
- World Cup 2023
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