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India's bowling plan - Bhuvneshwar or Shami? Kuldeep or Chahal?

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'Expectation is more on India than New Zealand' - Stead (1:41)

Gary Stead knows New Zealand are the underdogs but insists that will work in their favour ahead of their World Cup semi-final against India (1:41)

After fielding different bowling combinations in their last four games, what will the Indian think tank do against New Zealand at Old Trafford? Here are a few questions that need addressing before they take the field in Tuesday's semi-final.

Keeping in mind that India have played with an overall combination of five bowlers and six batsmen, Virat Kohli and the brains trust led by Ravi Shastri would need to work out answers to some key questions.

What is India's best bowling combination?

Who should Jasprit Bumrah's new-ball partner at Old Trafford be? Mohammed Shami made a strong case straightaway when he replaced Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the middle phase of the tournament, after the latter stretched his hamstring and left the field in India's clash against Pakistan in Manchester.

With Hardik Pandya consistently bowling his full ten-over quota, India can afford to play only one of Bhuvneshwar and Shami. Shami has double the number of wickets (14) having played one less match than Bhuvneshwar, who has played five games. Both players have similar economy rates, but Shami's strike rate (15) and average (13.78) are far better than those of Bhuvneshwar, whose corresponding figures are 35.7 and 32.28.

Both Bhuvneshwar and Shami have leaked runs, though, in the last games they played. While Bhuvneshwar returned expensive figures of 1 for 73 against Sri Lanka, a game Shami sat out after being taken for plenty in his final spells in the last two matches he played - against England and Bangladesh.

In contrast, Bumrah has created an instant impact in every spell at whatever point of the match he has bowled at. Bumrah was sympathetic to Bhuvneshwar's returns against Sri Lanka. "Some days some bowlers can go for runs and the position that we bowl in we bowl a lot of difficult overs for the team. So that's okay," Bumrah told the media at Headingley. "He [Bhuvneshwar] was clear in his execution. Some days batsmen play well so you can give credit to the batsmen."

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The death-over phase could be one key filter the management will apply before making their final choice. In the group phase, Bhuvneshwar gave 78 runs in 66 balls while picking up five wickets at an economy rate of 7.09. Correspondingly, Shami has leaked 85 runs in 53 balls, taking six wickets at an economy rate of 9.62. Another factor in Bhuvneshwar's favour is that he's a decent batsman.

Asked to provide an opinion on the race between Bhuvneshwar and Shami, Bumrah said it was a "good headache" for India. "It is a healthy competition," he said. "It is a good headache to have any time. Whenever everyone is performing, everyone is in good nick so probably you would love to have that competition going into a crucial game like the semifinals."

Can both wristspinners be fielded?

This is the second major question - Yuzvendra Chahal or Kuldeep Yadav? Or both? In their last two matches of the group phase, India played just one - Chahal against Bangladesh and Kuldeep against Sri Lanka.

In the six matches when both wristspinners have played, Chahal had double the wickets (10) than Kuldeep, who just had five. But Kuldeep's economy of 4.89 has been far better than that of Chahal, who has gone at 6.09.

Incidentally, the New Zealand batsmen have played out legspinners comfortably in the group phase: in the six matches they encountered legspinners in, New Zealand scored 144 runs off the 199 balls they faced, losing just three wickets. Also, Old Trafford has not been kind to legspinners, who have managed to pick up just six wickets in the tournament.

Old Trafford has the second-worst strike rate of 87.5 for spinners and the worst average of 89.4 this World Cup. India have already played at the venue twice - against Pakistan and West Indies - and fielded both wristspinners. Kuldeep picked three wickets at an economy of 3.20 while Chahal went at 6.60 while taking two wickets.

Do India then take the aggressive route and play both wristspinners or just Kuldeep - based not just on his form at the ground but also the fact that New Zealand have four left-hand batsmen - and have Ravindra Jadeja to play the holding role as he did against Sri Lanka? That also - crucially - lengthens that batting order too.

Is the five-bowler combination working?

Virat Kohli has always said that playing five bowlers gives the right balance and depth to the batting department. So India have tried out various combinations in the bowling marrying two wristspinners with two specialist fast bowlers with Hardik playing the third seamer's role.

Against Bangladesh, they played all three seamers in Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar and Shami along with Chahal and Pandya to counter a worn Edgbaston pitch and a short 59-metre boundary on one side. That combination allowed India to play Dinesh Karthik as the extra batsman in place of Kedar Jadhav, who was scratchy and has barely bowled his part-time offspin.

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Will India think of doing the same against New Zealand? According to India's assistant coach Sanjay Bangar, the five-bowler (Hardik one of them) plan provides strength to the batting unit and they are likely to stick to that. "What we thought (about) was the number of overs the sixth bowler was eventually bowling," Bangar said in at Headingley. "At times we are pushing Hardik up (in the batting order) so who was better suited at No. 7? That gives a lot of balance and that gives a lot of strength.

"Anyway, our sixth bowler wasn't really bowling that many bowlers and that is the reason we are opting to play."

But what if one of the five bowlers is injured during the game? Bumrah disagreed, saying that, instead, it has made bowlers more responsible. "Everybody is taking a lot of responsibility," he said. "So that is very good. When you got extra responsibility you are trying even harder, your execution is good."