Published On: Tue, Mar 15th, 2016

World Twenty20, India vs New Zealand: The key battles

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On a roll with 10 victories in their last 11 Twenty20 internationals, Team India will kick off the ICC World T20 2016 tournament as favourites when they open their campaign against New Zealand at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur on Tuesday.

India have been in a magnificent form in the shortest format of the game in recent times, registering a 3-0 whitewash against a formidable Australia in their den. They followed the clean-sweep with victory over Sri Lanka in the T20I series and then lifted the Asia Cup title in Bangladesh, without losing a match in the tournament.

Indian and New Zealand have some explosive batsmen and quality bowlers who make the opening match of the Super 10 stage an exciting contest. Some interesting duels between bat and ball are expected to take place during the match

Here CricketNext takes you through some of such possible encounters:

Rohit Sharma vs Tim Southee: Rohit Sharma is one batsman who, once set, can play big innings and is very difficult to get rid of. The Indian opener has been in sublime touch. His unbeaten 98 off just 57 balls was nothing less than an alarm bell for oppositions. Rohit has played 55 T20Is and has 1204 runs under his belt at an average of 32.54. He is also one of the handful batsmen who have got a century in T20Is. He achieved the feat against South Africa in Dharamsala last year when he blasted 106 off just 66 balls. Part of the inaugural World T20 edition in 2007, Rohit, batting at No. 6 in the final against Pakistan, turned out to be the second highest-scorer for India with 30 runs off 16 balls. Only Gautam Gambhir (75 off 54) scored better than him that day to help India beat Pakistan and lift the coveted trophy.

Tim Southee is one of the most experienced players in New Zealand fold. Leading the pace attack, Southee will look to derail India’s start. The best quality of the Kiwi pacer is that he can swing the ball both ways and it makes him an effective bowler during the Powerplay. Southee last played a T20I in June 2015 against England in Manchester where he took one wicket, conceding 45 runs in 4 overs. New Zealand will definitely be relying on his experience on Tuesday. If he manages to remove India’s top-order comprising of Rohit, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, New Zealand can have the advantage.

Virat Kohli vs Adam Milne: India’s batting star Virat Kohli has delivered with the bat when it mattered the most. When it comes to run-chase, Kohli is considered as one of the best cricketers in the world. Be it pacers or spinners, the 27-year-old has an answers for every attack in the world. His unbeaten 41 off 28 balls after Shikhar Dhawan laid the foundation with a magnificent 60 off 44 balls, helped India trounce Bangladesh to lift the Asia Cup title for the sixth time. He is most likely to emulate the same form on Tuesday as well. He couldn’t score runs in the WT20 warm-up games against West Indies and South Africa, where he scored a duck and one respectively. However, Kohli is a known to be a big-match player and can find his form any day and against any opponent. He has played 38 T20Is and has scored 1368 runs at an average of 52.61.

New Zealand pacer Adam Milne made his first-class debut as an 18-year-old for Central Districts in 2009. He claimed a wicket on his second ball and finished with 4 for 52 against Canterbury. His sheer pace and accurate line and length has sometimes earned him comparisons with former Kiwi pacer Shane Bond. After making his T20I debut in 2010 against Pakistan, the 23-year-old has become a vital member in the team. In the recently-concluded T20I series against Pakistan, Milne finished as the highest wicket-taker. He claimed eight wickets in three matches with best bowling figures of 4 for 37. Milne, who has 18 wickets in 14 T20Is, needs a little bit of assistance from the wicket and can do the rest of the job for his team.

Ashish Nehra vs Kane Williamson: Age seems just a number for Ashish Nehra. At the age of 37, most of the cricketers are seen holding a microphone and commentating during a cricket match or mentoring young players. But Nehra has proved his critics wrong. The left-hand pacer is bowling with the zeal of a youngster. His pace, accuracy and subtle variations of line and length has impressed everyone since he made a comeback in the T20Is against Australia in January. Nehra, who was forced into international exile post India’s 2011 World Cup triumph, made a comeback after almost five years. He celebrated his return with two wickets against Australia and helped India clean-sweep the T20I series 3-0. Continuing his superb show, Nehra claimed 5 wickets in three matches in India’s 2-1 T20I series win against Sri Lanka.

He also took a three-wicket haul to help India start their Asia Cup campaign with a crushing 45-run win over Bangladesh at Mirpur and picked up one wicket in the final of the tournament. Dhoni will most likely be throwing the new ball to Nehra and hope that the pacer dismantles the top order cheaply. If Nehra manages to do that, India’s campaign may begin on a winning note.

Since Kane Williamson has taken over New Zealand’s captaincy, the team has returned to winning ways. Williamson has become the mainstay of the New Zealand batting order. Under his captaincy, NZ defeated Pakistan in a recently-concluded T20I series. Williamson finished as the highest run-getter in the series with 175 runs in 3 matches at an average of 87.50.

Though his 63 off 39 in the WT20 warm-up match against England couldn’t give New Zealand a morale-boosting win ahead of the mega tournament, his confidence and match-winning abilities can send any bowling attack on a leather hunt. Williamson has played 30 T20Is and has scored 844 runs at an average of 36.69.

Jasprit Bumrah vs Martin Guptill: Luck and hard work did wonders for young bowling sensation Jasprit Bumrah. After receiving his Mumbai Indians’ cap from maestro Sachin Tendulkar in 2013, Bumrah’s rise has been phenomenal.

The right-arm pacer was supposed to join India’s T20I squad in Australia but a last-moment stroke of luck advanced the debut of the man with an unorthodox action. The Gujarat fast bowler was named replacement for injured Mohammed Shami for the T20I series against Australia.

As luck would have it, Bumrah flew to Sydney, venue of the fifth ODI. On the match day, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was declared unfit and Bumrah was awarded his India cap. His inclusion came as a huge boost to the struggling Indian attack as his 2 for 40 helped India avoid a 5-0 whitewash in the ODI series. The pacer continued his impressive show in the T20I series Down Under, claiming 6 wickets in three matches and signed off as the highest wicket-taker. He also restricted the Kangaroo batsmen from going for big shots. His unique action and temperament in death overs, especially the ability to bowl yorkers, was a welcome and much-needed addition to the Team India’s bowling attack. It didn’t take him long to win skipper MS Dhoni’s confidence who termed him as the ‘find of the tour’.

After his successful stints against Australia and Sri Lanka, Bumrah easily made a place into the Asia Cup T20 squad. It won’t be wrong to call him as Dhoni’s ‘go-to-man’ in the World T20.

Martin Guptill is arguably the most dependable in this New Zealand batting line-up. In the absence of Brendon McCullum, who recently bid adieu from international cricket, New Zealand will be relying on their high-flying opener to do the job. Guptill has been in the form of his life and can play a formidable role in New Zealand’s campaign. He rewrote New Zealand record books when he took just 19 deliveries to bring up his eighth half-century during the second T20I against Sri Lanka. His mark was then eclipsed by his teammate Colin Munro some 20 minutes later when the left-hander achieved the milestone in just 14 deliveries in the same match.

If India bowlers manage to get rid of Guptill early, the hosts will surely be on the front foot right from the start.

Colin Munro vs R Ashwin: Colin Munro is one of the most devastating batsmen in the New Zealand outfit. With his hard-hitting batting style, the southpaw can resist any attack in the world and can smash the ball out of the park with ease. His 14-ball 50 against Sri Lanka in a recently-concluded T20I series is the best example of his explosive batting as he blasted seven sixes during his brutal knock. His 67 off 34 in the WT20 warm-up match against Sri Lanka, which guided New Zealand to a resounding 74-run win, is something which can opposition skippers to unease. Munro has played 23 T20Is and has scored 382 runs at an average of 25.46.

India, playing at home, will be heavily relying on their spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Ashwin, with his experience and variations, will try to fox the New Zealand batsmen and finish the middle order quickly. Ashwin claimed 9 wickets in the T20I series against Sri Lanka and followed it with 4 wickets in the Asia Cup. The 29-year-old has played 38 T20Is and has bagged 46 wickets with the best figures of 4 for 8. On spin-assisting Indian pitches, Ashwin’s leg-breaks can come handy and can help him turn a match on its head.

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About the Author

Syed Ammar Alavi

- is Lahore (Pakistan) based journalist & writer with 25-year experience in print, wire and broadcast forms of journalism. His major fields of interest are politics, film,tv,sports, climate change and technology

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