7/9/2019 2:22:55 AM (GMT+3)

'R2' factor key to India's chances against New Zealand

LONDON: Rohit Sharma is in blistering form while the bowlers have packed quite a punch, but it remains to be seen if India can maintain their amazing form against New Zealand at the Cricket World Cup semifinal on Tuesday.

One have to recall the record books when India were knocked out of the semis – four years back they were beaten by eventual champions Australia. They also exited the tournament at the same stage in 1987 and 1996 -- losing to England and Sri Lanka.

Winning seven of their nine games to top the group rate them as one of the top contenders for the title. They haven’t shown signs of being burdened by the pressure and they completed their round-robin league engagements with a clinical seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka at Headingley on Friday.

A seventh World Cup semifinal is the reward for their consistency and they will fancy their chances with the likes of skipper Virat Kohli, Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah at their disposal. 

The only defeat was against England, but that can be treated as a strong warning to overcome the over-confidence as they remained the only unbeaten side till their loss against the hosts.

“I’m really proud of this team. More or less everything is set for the semis but we don't want to be one-dimensional. We need balance in the side. If we play well we can beat anyone, if we don't play well anyone can beat us,” said Kohli.

The 'R2' factor 

Team India, in fact, had been able to soak up the pressure after opener Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out of the tournament due to injury. Much of this credit goes to the think tank, who’ve done well in picking the right replacement -- KL Rahul.

The Karnataka batsman kept up to his team’s expectations as he forged an excellent partnership with Rohit with the duo added three hundred-plus stands in the tournament while Rahul notched up a century against Sri Lanka in Leeds last Friday. A record opening stand of 189 at Headingley summed up their new-found understanding which may help India with a good start against the Kiwis. If they continue with the same rhythm, the two-time champions stand a good chance to qualify for the final.

Bumrah to the fore

India’s bowlers led by paceman Jasprit Bumrah have been really outstanding – the quickies have snaffled 51 wickets at 23.50, the best average of any team in the competition.  

Kohli’s side have lost only four wickets in the entire competition in the first 10 overs, showing an unstinting commitment to reducing risk. India's run rate of 4.65 in the first Powerplay was well below the tournament average of 4.93, scoring 28 against England and 32 against South Africa.

Keeping their cool and with record-breaking Rohit to the fore, Indian wickets have cost 93 runs on average, leaving the former and Kohli to wreak havoc at the end of the innings. 

Struggle in death overs

But when Team India lost their top three, they continued to struggle in the death overs. Since the 2015 World Cup, none of the 10 teams’ tail-enders have scored slower than India, whose collective run-rate stands at 4.71 an over with only Hardik Pandya’s 46 against West Indies was that quick.