Following the conclusion of the qualifying round, India and New Zealand will kick off the Super 10s with a clash at Nagpur on Tuesday. On current form, India are red hot favourites to clinch the tournament, and people have gone to the extent of saying that the Cup is India's to lose. But, to win, India will have to rewrite history as no host nation has lifted the trophy till date, a proof of how much pressure there is on the home nation. Perhaps, that had something to do with India going down to South Africa in the warm-up game. New Zealand who, interestingly, have not lost to India in T20s, will also look to catch India off guard.
India go into the clash at Nagpur with their batting in the pink of health. Virat Kohli heads into the tournament having rarely tasted a failure over the last two series', in Australia and in Bangladesh in the Asia Cup. The only flip side to that is the worry that India's best batsman may have peaked early. Something similar happened in the World Cup last year, when Kohli began the tournament on a bang, but could not carry on his great run into the latter stages. Like Kohli, Rohit Sharma too has been in excellent form. Although his consistency hasn't been the same, New Zealand will look at him as an equally dangerous opponent.
The other opener, Shikhar Dhawan, may be running hot and cold, but he did win India the Asia Cup final, and followed it up with a fluent half-century in a losing cause in the warm-up against South Africa. With Yuvraj Singh back among the runs and, more importantly, looking fluent, India's middle order looks a lot more solid although they would hope Suresh Raina gets some runs early in the tournament. As for MS Dhoni's form, when Sachin Tendulkar says that he is hitting the ball well, it means a lot. In Hardik Pandya, they have a good lower order hitter, while Ajinkya Rahane is a great back up option to have.
India's bowling is the one area where they hold a significant edge over other teams, especially on the subcontinent. Jasprit Bumrah has made the big difference, being potent at the top of the order, and towards the end. It was something the Indians were dearly missing as recently as the series at home against South Africa. Skipper Dhoni will also be pleased with the form his former CSK teammate Ashish Nehra has displayed with the ball. Nehra will be looking forward to bringing all his T20 experience into play. One wonders if Mohammed Shami will be picked even if he is fit. And, we haven't even spoken of spin duo -- Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who could have a big impact on the series.
The big change for New Zealand is obviously the loss of Brendon McCullum, who decided to hang up his gloves before the mega event. Still, in Kane Williamson, they have a quality batsman who is a match-winner in T20s as well. They have a few other match winners as well in the batting department in the likes of Martin Guptill, Grant Elliott, Ross Taylor and Colin Munro. Whether they can stand up to India's bowling away from home remains to be seen. In the bowling, the onus will as usual be on Tim Southee and Trent Boult. Again, just like with the batsmen, the significant part will be whether they can prove to be effective under the given conditions.
-- By A Cricket Analyst