Big picture: Big stakes
First, the unstoppable force. India are having the World Cup of their wildest dreams and it has nothing to do with the fact they are undefeated in it. That is merely a byproduct of their planning leading into the tournament. They left 2019 needing… more. So they went out searching, trying as many as 50 different players
across four years and 66 matches. Six months out from the showpiece, they had identified who they wanted and were focused on sharpening their skills. In the 15 ODIs between March and October 2023, they were picking all of their XIs from a set of 24
The chosen ones were given all the support they needed to live up to their full potential, which is why Suryakumar Yadav finally looks like he belongs in ODI cricket. Off the field, India were doing even better. The success of this campaign - and it is already a success - was built in the doctor's offices and the gyms and the training sessions that enabled Jasprit Bumrah and KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer to come back from injury without losing a shred of their ability to the doubt that their bodies might break down again if they pushed it too hard.
Rohit Sharma and his predecessor Virat Kohli have often pointed to a record of sustained excellence whenever they were faced with questions around the lack of ICC trophies since 2013. Whether the drought ends in a week's time or not, the gains this team has made - the freedom with which they bat, the discipline with which they bowl, the trust they have in themselves and their method, the joy they have spread - already feel historic.
shape-shifting object. New Zealand become what they need to be to win. Rachin Ravindra began scoring mountains of runs in the top order, so the opener they invested in
during the lead-up to the World Cup has to warm the bench. They've turned Glenn Phillips into something close to an allrounder, the man has doubled the number of overs he had bowled in his entire ODI career during the course of this competition. They've dealt with injury to key personnel. They weren't derailed by the close-run loss to Australia or the one after they scored 401 against Pakistan. They pitch up. They do what they can. And then they are at peace with whatever happens. This is why they are so good in high-pressure games like the one that took place on July 14, 2019
Expect a cagey start. Each team trying ever so hard not to make the first mistake, trying not so much to beat the opposition as outlasting them. New Zealand are masters at this art; at just staying in the game long enough until there is an opening to burst through.
India: WWWWW (last five completed ODIs, most recent first)
New Zealand: WLLLL
In the spotlight: Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult
is the man that makes India unbeatable. Without him, they went out with a whimper at the T20 World Cup last year. With him, they thrashed the team that had tossed them out in Australia despite a massive batting malfunction. Almost 80% of his deliveries (175 out of 228) in the first ten overs are dots. He always comes back in the middle overs because if he can pick up a wicket then, a new batter will have to face the prospect of scoring those crucial, and quick, runs against, in all likelihood, Bumrah himself because he truly does come alive at the death with his slower balls and his yorkers.
New Zealand's best chance to win will be bowling under lights. The new ball has moved dramatically in Mumbai after sunset, and early wickets are the surest way to cripple an opposition, even one with so many fail-safes. Trent Boult
has not always had the conditions in his favour at this World Cup but if the fates align to present him the opportunity to target the stumps and the pads of Rohit and Kohli and Shreyas and Rahul, he will sure as hell take it. And even if he has to bowl in the heat, he'll be spurred on by an acute sense of unfinished business.
Nether India nor New Zealand will be looking to shuffle up their packs. Lockie Ferguson has been managing an achilles injury throughout the tournament, the Black Caps coach Gary Stead told Sky Sport NZ, but he also added that the fast bowler should be good to play the semi-final. On the eve of the game, Williamson confirmed all the players in their squad were fit and available for selection.
India have been playing the same XI since their fifth league game, which was against New Zealand in Dharamsala.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 KL Rahul (wk), 6 Suryakumar Yadav, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Mohammed Shami, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Mohammed Siraj
New Zealand (probable): 1 Devon Conway, 2 Rachin Ravindra, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Daryl Mitchell, 5 Tom Latham (wk), 6 Glenn Phillips, 7 Mark Chapman, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Lockie Ferguson, 11 Trent Boult
Pitch and conditions
It's been fun to bat in the first innings at Wankhede stadium and then fun again after 20 overs of the chase is done. The in-between period is when the quicks have wreaked havoc. The weather is set fair and even if not there is a reserve day for the semi-final.
Stats and trivia
- India currently have the most wickets (85), best economy rate (4.5), best average (19.6) and best strike rate (26.2) among all teams in the World Cup.
- Tim Southee vs Virat Kohli could be a fun battle. It has produced 205 runs at a strike rate of 101 but also six dismissals as well.
- New Zealand have been effective at scoring runs quickly in this World Cup, having the joint-highest run rate (6.5) among all teams in the tournament.
- Among opening pairs with at least 1000 runs in ODIs, Rohit and Shubman Gill have the second-highest average (74.8) behind only David Warner and Travis Head (80.1).
"The underdog thing, from what you guys write, I do not think it has changed too much, but that is fine you know, and India have been exceptional."
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson is comfortable with the perception that India are favourites
"I've played a lot of cricket here: these four or five games are not going to tell a lot about what Wankhede is… I certainly believe that toss is not the [decisive] factor."
India captain Rohit Sharma insists the semi-final will not be decided solely by which team bats first.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo