T20 World Cup: Why India will be rooting for a narrow New Zealand loss

Published on Nov 07, 2021 04:25 PM IST

Only if Afghanistan beat New Zealand, will there be meaning to India, the pre-tournament favourites, playing Namibia later in the day.

Indian Skipper Virat Kohli and Afghanistan's Mohammad Nabi during the ICC Mens T20 World Cup 2021 match between India and Afghanistan at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. (ANI)
Indian Skipper Virat Kohli and Afghanistan's Mohammad Nabi during the ICC Mens T20 World Cup 2021 match between India and Afghanistan at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. (ANI)

Sunday afternoon cricket will have a lot of Indians glued to screens for a T20 World Cup game that does not feature Virat Kohli's team. New Zealand with the smallest of supporting contingents and Afghanistan with sizeable support from their expat population in UAE will be playing in Abu Dhabi. And only if Afghanistan win, will there be meaning to India, the pre-tournament favourites, playing Namibia later in the day.

If New Zealand win, they go through as the second semi-finalists along with Pakistan from the group. What happens to India? Well, like Ravindra Jadeja said, they have to “pack their bags and come back home”. India will be praying for an Afghanistan win, but not too hard. For they don’t want them to win by a big margin.

It will be another day of waiting, watching and calculating for the Indian cricket team in their hotel rooms in Dubai. That’s not what strong teams generally like to do in a multi-nation tournament. They are immersed in processes, preparations and routines. Most of the watching is done by the analytics’ team. But India’s rocky start to the World Cup has meant their late surge would mean something only if Sunday’s early result goes to their liking. Once that happens, they can bring their A game against Associate qualifiers Namibia and reinvigorate their title quest. 

Afghanistan vs New Zealand Live Score: Follow Live Blog here

Ravichandran Ashwin had offered some physio support for Afghanistan to put the injured Mujeeb Ur Rahman back on the park. But on Saturday, Afghanistan weren’t sure if he would be fit. Mystery spinner Rahman has been a key weapon in the powerplay with six wickets in two matches at an average of 5.66, an economy rate of 4.25. When Rahman has played, forming a spin troika with Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi, Afghanistan have looked a different bowling unit.

New Zealand know that. “They are spearheaded by Rashid Khan, Mujeeb is phenomenal as well and Nabi is a cagey off-spinner. That’s where the threat lies with their bowling attack,” said New Zealand spinner Ish Sodhi. “All the batters have spoken about it in the scouting meeting.”

New Zealand generally are a side that don’t deviate from processes. “We see it as another game,” said Sodhi. “If we keep it simple in trying to adapt to the conditions best as we can and being aware of the threats that Afghanistan pose and take into consideration things we have done really well, we can put on a good performance and the other stuff takes care of itself.”

Abu Dhabi wickets have been the best to bat in the tournament, but the New Zealand seamers Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Adam Milne will be looking to rock Afghanistan with bounce and any movement on offer.

The equation for Afghanistan is much stiffer. India now, have the best run rate in the group which means Afghanistan have to beat New Zealand by a big margin. The narrower the margin of win, the easier India’s target would be. “We are only focusing on how we can qualify for the semi -finals,” said batter Hashmatullah Shahidi when asked about the Indian interest around the match. “We will be trying our best.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Rasesh Mandani loves a straight drive. He has been covering cricket, the governance and business side of sport for close to two decades. He writes and video blogs for HT.

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