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New Zealand face-off against a rampaging Indian side in the opening match of India’s most awaited grand festival of Cricket.
It is a surprise that New Zealand side, who have always boasted of some quality hitters and multi-faceted cricketers, haven’t put the World T20 stage on fire. This time around the task has been made more difficult with the retirement of their dynamic skipper Mccullum. The Black Caps without Baz will be like a car without its sixth gear. Indian opening bowlers will be elated with the prospect of not facing a marauding Mccullum. Instead, they will face a different challenge in a calm and serene Williamson, who will go about his artistry in an unassuming fashion. In Mcculum’s absence, Guptill will have to take up the mantle of aggressor. Given his stupendous form, this tournament could be the one where he stamps his authority and take the Kiwis deep into the tournament. Ross Taylor’s form will be the key for New Zealand given his absence from the cricket for a relative amount of time. His new role would bolster New Zealand’s middle-order and if he gets in the groove then the mid-wicket and square-leg fence are going to get peppered with cricket balls humming at them. Corey Anderson and Mitchell Santner will provide the much needed stability to their side.  Their bowling though, will be tested by India’s belligerent top three. Rohit Sharma has finally found the balance between defense and playing those million-dollar shots. Dhawan has added a leg-side pick-Sup shot to his repertoire to neutralize the opposition’s ploy of tucking him for room. Virat Kohli is like a bullet train which doesn’t look like slowing anytime soon. In this uncertain format, only thing certain has been Kohli’s vintage touch. He has made a habit of pulling India out of precarious situations or consolidate when the situation arises. Similar to Kohli, Ashwin relishes the big stage and Dhoni will bank on him to bowl some crucial overs in the Powerplay. Yuvraj Singh would look to bury the ghosts of 2014 where he could only muster 11 of 21 balls in the final. On his day, Yuvraj’s bat-swing can keep the jaws of many open in awe. It’s not a shock that he is playing his fourth World T20 tournament, as he has overcome far bigger hurdles and India will hope that the Yuvraj of the old makes an appearance with the stroke play that has lit many grounds.
No one even in their wildest dreams, a tax-paying Indian would have predicted that Nehra and Bumrah would be India’s first choice bowling pair at the mega event. Here they are, shouldering the responsibility diligently.
MS Dhoni remains India’s best bet as a finisher down the ladder. He came to the party in the final of the Asia Cup, making short work of a tricky chase. He was back to what he knows best, make mockery of the death bowlers and hit sixes for dinner.
Barring two editions (2007 and 2014), India have majorly underperformed in this tournament but they can take solace from the fact that last time when a major tournament was held in India, they were crowned as the champions. Everything is set in India’s favor- dry pitches, firing top-order, a topnotch bowling attack with an unorthodox death bowler and calm as a cucumber skipper. India tick all the boxes and look primed for World Cup glory. Come Tuesday, New Zealand will have something to say about it though.
Food for Fact:-
India have never managed to beat New Zealand in an International T20.
Virat Kohli’s average is a staggering 117.40 this year in T20.
Last Encounter:-
New Zealand 190 all out 20 overs (Mccullum-45)
India 180/9(Gambhir-51)
New Zealand got the better of a young Indian side, crossing the line by 10 runs
The current head-to-head stands at 4-0 in favor of New Zealand in 5 games ( 1 game was washed out due to rain)
Ajooba’s Prediction
India to draw first blood in this tournament of heavy-weights.