In Twenty20 cricket, well begun is half done more often than not. While India start tournament favourites, they will be wary of New Zealand’s reputation for fighting with their backs to the wall in the opening Super 10 Group 2 game.
While India bring great form and consistency into the premier event and the home conditions should give them the upper hand, the pressure of expectations from millions of fans means they can’t even contemplate the possibility of having an off-day in the compact tournament, which ends with the final on April 3.
Nagpur will surely set the tone as New Zealand, although yet to win a World Cup of any hue, are a compact side and their players are familiar with the Indian conditions and that can throw up a close contest on Tuesday evening.
In the final countdown to India kicking off their campaign, here’s a look at how they have started in the five previous campaign.
2007, South Africa
Both India and the tournament were unknown quantities as the T20 format was taking baby steps. India’s opening game against Associate team Scotland was washed out. They played out an exciting tie against Pakistan next up, going through in the Super Over after the deadlock in Durban.
Robin Uthappa’s 50 and skipper MS Dhoni’s 33 carried India to 141/9, pacer Mohammad Asif taking 4/18. Although India bowlers hit back, Pakistan almost made it, only for Misbah-ul Haq’s (53) run out off the last ball attempting the winning run brought India back into the picture. Winning the Super Over helped maintain India’s perfect record against Pakistan in World Cups and injected a big dose of self-belief. From there, India picked up momentum to go all the way.
India started strongly, defeating Bangladesh by 25 runs in the opening game in Trent Bridge. Their total of 180 was powered by Gautam Gambhir’s 50 at the top of the order, but Dhoni made a rare appearance at No 3, contributing a useful 26 in a robust top-order performance by India. Bangladesh were restricted to 155 for eight with left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha taking four wickets.
India also beat Ireland in the second game for a strong start before their campaign unraveled with defeats against West Indies, England and South Africa eliminating them from the semifinals. The controversy over the fitness of Virender Sehwag only added to the misery.
2010, West Indies
Another strong start, defeating Afghanistan and South Africa in the first two games, but India again failed to reach the knockout stage. Ashish Nehra’s 3/19 helped restricted Afghanistan to 115 for 8 and India raced to 116 for three in 14.5 overs with Murali Vijay top-scoring with 48. A Suresh Raina century (101) carried India to a 14-run win over the Proteas in the next game. India scored 186 and restricted South Africa to 172.
But Dhoni’s side didn’t pick up momentum from there, losing the remaining league games and left the Caribbean disappointed, a tussle in a St Lucia bar after fans taunted some of the players adding to the gloom.
2012, Sri Lanka
India were finally expected to end their semifinal block in the neighbourhood battle. After their unbeaten run to the 2007 title, this was another consistent performance but it stopped them just short of a semifinal spot.
They brushed aside two lightweights, Afghanistan by 23 runs and England by 90 runs. After managing only 68/3 in 10.1 overs, Virat Kohli’s 39-ball 50 took India to 159/3. Afghanistan were dismissed for 136 in the final over with Lakshmipathy Balaji and Yuvraj Singh taking three wickets apiece.
Against England, Gambhir, Kohli and Rohit Sharma guided India to 170 for four before Harbhajan Singh captured four wickets to end the chase at 80 in the 15th over.
After seven years, they again faced arch-rivals Pakistan but brushed them aside by seven wickets in a perfect start. The momentum carried them all the way to the final against Sri Lanka, although they could not cross the final hurdle.
It was restrictive spin bowling first up, with Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja taking only three wickets but conceding only 40 runs in their eight overs. That pegged Pakistan down to 130/7. In reply, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina all chipped in to take India home with nine balls to spare.
India went all the way to the final but lost to Sri Lanka after losing batting momentum.