Heartthrobs brace up to battle heavyweights
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Start time 1930 local (1400 GMT)
The tournament proper is upon us. Its name - Super 10s - says big billing. Its first match caters to the same. India are the heavyweights. New Zealand are the heartthrobs. Considering the World T20 began with fingers dangled at the organisers for their ticketing strategy and the collective anger of the Associates over an unforgiving qualifying round, a blockbuster match between two Full Members at a jam-packed Jamtha cannot arrive sooner.
A slice of the hype went missing last December when Brendon McCullum announced his retirement from international cricket. In his stead comes Colin Munro, who has hit the most sixes in a first-class innings and struck New Zealand's fastest T20 fifty. With Munro, though, comes an asterisk. He has batted only five times in India. Munro managed 19 and 6 for Auckland in the Champions League T20 in 2011 and later made 1,4,1 for New Zealand A against India A in 2013.
Very few from New Zealand's squad have played T20 cricket in Indian conditions. Thirteen of them have played less than 15 games in the country, and the man with the most experience - Ross Taylor, with 46 matches - is coming back after injury.
India, on the other hand, have gone on record to say they are on "auto-pilot" in the shortest format thanks to the exposure from the IPL. Their top order is perhaps the strongest in the tournament and you would think with Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya lower down, there is enough of a failsafe should things go wrong. It has worked so far. India have won 10 out of 11 T20I matches since the start of the year.
India: WWWWW (last five completed matches)
New Zealand: WWLWW
Watch out for
Martin Guptill's recent white-ball exploits include a double-hundred at the 50-over World Cup and fifty off 19 balls in a T20I. It is perceived that the slow, turning tracks in India may dilute his menace. He doesn't lack for power - he has a reputation for hitting some monstrous sixes down the ground - but Guptill will need to mind the pace of the pitches first before sending balls into the sky.
He's been rated as a proper batsman, but the highest Yuvraj can bat is at No. 5. He had coped reasonably well on seamer-friendly pitches in Bangladesh and if the time he's spent at the crease has revived his confidence - and he had said it has - that's another match-winner in an already powerful batting line-up.
The only reason there may be a change made to India's Asia Cup-winning XI is if Mohammed Shami has impressed the management enough to squeeze in ahead of Ashish Nehra.
India (probable) 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 MS Dhoni (capt and wk), 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Ashish Nehra/Mohammed Shami
New Zealand might need to pick between Mitchell Santner and Nathan McCullum as the lead spinner. The other toss up might be between Mitchell McClenaghan, who has been part of an IPL-winning Mumbai Indians team, and Adam Milne.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Kane Williamson (capt), 3 Colin Munro, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Corey Anderson, 6 Grant Elliott, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Mitchell Santner/ Nathan McCullum, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan/ Adan Milne
Pitch and conditions
Rain probably doesn't strike twice in Nagpur, but it was overcast on the eve of the match and the forecast is said to be partly cloudy on Tuesday. The surfaces in use for the qualifiers here have been dry. Balls have stopped on the batsman a bit - even offcutters from the seam bowlers.
Stats and trivia
- New Zealand have played only one T20I in India - they won it by one run in Chennai in 2012
- It appears India's bogey team in T20Is is New Zealand - four matches, four losses.
"I suppose whatever build-up that you have, it doesn't promise success. I think in the international game, it is important that you get your head around changing formats consistently."
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson on coming into the World T20 after playing a Test series at home.
"They have not paid that much attention to who is in the opposition, who I am bowling to or batting against. They have backed their skills, which they also do in the IPL, and that has been an X-factor for our team in the last few series."
India batsman Virat Kohli on the quick rise of players like Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo