In Stats: In India-NZ Semis, History and Current Form Favour India
In the months, weeks and days leading to the World Cup 2019, Team India was expected to dominate the competition. At least where fans were concerned, it was a given that the team would qualify for the semi-final.
Virat Kohli’s side has accomplished that; the team might not have played their best cricket in the group stage, but they’ve qualified for the knockouts without breaking a sweat. They suffered one defeat in the competition, but other than that, they were pushed hard only once – by Afghanistan – and ended up topping the table at the end of the group stage.
The margin of Team India’s wins in the competition helps establish how they have dominated proceedings.
Now, more than five weeks since the competition began, Team India, who have brushed aside most opponents, will face their first stern test; in a semi-final, in a match which presents no second chances, in a match where only the winner progresses.
On Tuesday, Team India will compete with New Zealand in the first semi-final at the Old Trafford in Manchester.
If recent history were to be used as an indicator, then Team India should be strong favourites; no team has defeated the Blackcaps more often than Team India in ODIs since 2016.
Another set of numbers that give Team India the edge is the two teams’ records in World Cup semi-finals; while Team India have a 50% win record in the semi-finals, the Blackcaps have prevailed in a semi-final only once in seven attempts.
A final set of stats which should sway pre-match discussions in Team India’s favour is New Zealand’s dismal record in ODIs at the Old Trafford; the Blackcaps have only managed to win 2 matches in 7 outings. One of those two wins was a thrilling 5-run win against the West Indies a fortnight ago.
Even in the context of this tournament, Team India have been better than the Blackcaps. Where Team India has sustained the intensity for most part of the tournament, the Blackcaps have hit a slippery patch after a superb start to the competition and head into the semi-finals at the back of three losses.
India have a huge edge over New Zealand in terms of performances of the batsmen batting in the top three. Even after injury forced the departure of Shikhar Dhawan, Team India has been safe in the hands of KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma – who have stitched together two record opening stands in the last two matches. In contrast, New Zealand have struggled for starts; take out the undefeated 137-run stand in their opener against Sri Lanka, and their opening pair has only added a total of 83 runs in the next seven matches.
In fact, barring their captain Kane Williamson, New Zealand’s batting hasn’t been convincing at all in the competition; Williamson has an aggregate of 481 runs, while the next best aggregate by a Kiwi batsman is Ross Taylor’s 261.
In contrast, while Team India’s top-order has been firing all cylinders, Virat Kohli – batting at number three – has repeatedly made good scores batting at number three. Team India’s captain is due for a big score – will he post one on Tuesday?
Questions For Team India: Number Four and Bowling Combination
I was startled to discover that India is the only side in the World Cup 2019 whose batsmen batting at number four and five have not posted a half-century. 48 – made by Hardik Pandya against Australia and by Rishabh Pant against Bangladesh – is the highest score by Indian batsmen batting at four or five in the competition.
While that stat isn’t a huge concern – because it needs to be read in the context of India’s overall batting performance in the competition, it is certainly an area Team India can get better at; the set batsman needs to carry on and bat into the last five overs of the innings.
When the Indian team management sit down to decide the composition of the bowling attack, they should take into consideration the conditions – on-ground and overhead, the shape and size of the ground, the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition, and finally the strengths and weaknesses of each of the bowlers itself.
Given the predictions for the match to be interrupted by the weather, Team India will be considering a three-pacers and two-spinners combination. There’s a strong case for the all-rounder (or bits-and-pieces cricketer – whichever prism you choose to see it from) Ravindra Jadeja to be included as the second spinner; if the conditions are overcast, and if the pitch is sticky, it will aid the finger-spinner more than the wrist spinner. Jadeja also provides the captain with more control with the ball, can contribute with the bat and is a gun fielder.
All the numbers may point to Team India being favourites. But that is history. All that will matter on Tuesday is which team performs better on the day and earns the right to battle for the World Cup 2019.
India’s Suggested XI: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal.