When India and New Zealand clash for their T20 World Cup Group 2 fixture in Dubai on Sunday, Afghanistan would already have played against Namibia.
With all due respect to the African side, it is very probable that they will concede to Afghanistan their second win of the tournament and a consolidated second place in the group table with four points.
In this scenario, both Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson will be dreading another defeat as they reel from defeats against Pakistan in their opening games.
Loss for either would make their fixture against Afghanistan a very crucial one to ensure a place in the semi-final, and Mohammad Nabi’s men are dangerous.
Pakistan did overcome them, thanks to Asif Ali’s late heroics, but the Afghan’s lost from a winning position.
India, as Kohli acknowleged, were “outplayed” by Pakistan. However, New Zealand’s loss wasn’t clinical. Therefore, Kohli would expect his top order to deliver this time. Bamboozled by Shaheen Shah Afridi’s pace and swing, Indian openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul failed against Pakistan.
India’s lower order did try to build around Kohli but their total wasn’t enough to beat Pakistan.
Rohit and Rahul will be tested once again as New Zealand pace bowling spearhead Trent Boult will look to emulate Shaheen’s effort against them.
“I thought the way Shaheen bowled the other night from a left-armer, watching on I thought it was amazing,” said Boult.
“Early wickets are definitely the focus for us as a bowling group. Hopefully, from my point of view, it swings around a little bit and I can mirror what Shaheen did the other night.”
If India’s top order clicks anyway, they have got it all that it takes to post a good total or chase a big one. New Zealand, in Martin Guptill and Daryl Mitchell, also have the hard-hitting openers who can give a tough time to any team in the world.
Captain Kane Williamson, Devon Conway and all-rounder Jimmy Neesham also have the ability to build on starts given by Guptill and Mitchell.
With the ball, apart from Boult, New Zealand will rely on the experience of Tim Southee, who took the crucial wicket of Pakistan captain Babar Azam in their first match.
Mitchell Santner’s slow left-armers and Ish Sodhi’s wrist spin will also come in very handy for the Kiwis.
India’s bowler failed miserably against Pakistan, not even creating an outside chance for themselves against Babar and Mohammad Rizwan, eventually losing by ten wickets.
It is high time for the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuwaneshwar Kumar to use their experience to help India make a solid comeback. Kohli might also need to consider making some changes in the playing XI.