DAMBULLA (Sri Lanka): Bruised and battered in their previous outing, India go into the do-or-die encounter against a gritty New Zealand with concerns about the continuing poor form of their batsmen in the tri-series on Wednesday.
Languishing at the bottom of the points table, India will hope that rain does not play spoilsport as Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men need an outright over the Kiwis to progress to Saturday’s final against Sri Lanka.
But going into the match, Dhoni would be a worried man as his famed top-order line-up has struggled throughout the series, the proof of which was the 103-run surrender to Sri Lanka in the last match.
Barring Virender Sehwag, all other Indian top-order batsmen have found the going tough on the tricky Rangagiri Dambulla wicket.
Sehwag will have to shoulder the responsibility of guiding the Indian innings against the pace-heavy Kiwi attack.
India’s main worry, however, will be the form of youngsters who have failed to rise to the occasion in the absence of seniors such as Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh.
Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have failed miserably in the earlier matches. To add to it, Dhoni himself has very little to show in the tournament.
But Yuvraj Singh’s return to runs in the last match might give Dhoni something to cheer about.
Yuvraj, who came back to the playing eleven against Sri Lanka in the last match after recovering from dengue, managed the only knock of substance for India with a fighting 38 off 64 balls.
"Next game is like a semi-final now. We have to do well in that match or we have to pack up and go back home," Dhoni had said after the humiliating eight-wicket defeat against Sri Lanka, which was also India’s biggest loss in terms of balls remaining.
"Yuvraj batted well (in the last match). That was the positive thing. He is a crucial man at the middle order. He is the kind of guy who can graft for runs and also hit big shots," the Indian skipper said of the left-hander.
On the bowling front, the Indian attack has done a fine job so far, except for the last match where they had very little to defend.
Seamers Ashish Nehra and Praveen Kumar have been impressive in the tournament while pace colleague Ishant Sharma too is getting back into his groove.
Left-arm tweaker Pragyan Ojha also did a decent job with the ball after being handed over the responsibility of spearheading the spin attack in Harbhajan’s absence.
New Zealand, on the other hand, will be a confident lot after having mauled India by 200 runs in the tournament opener.
Sitting at seven points compared to India’s five, the Kiwis too need an outright victory to qualify for the summit clash.
However in the event of the match being washed out due to rain, the Kiwis would automatically make it to the final.
New Zealand had a spectacular start to the tournament with the big win against India, but the Kiwis hit a low after losing to Sri Lanka by three wickets in the next match.
To add to New Zealand’s misery, their next match against Sri Lanka was washed out, which dragged them into the do-or-die situation.
The Kiwis would once again rest on captain Ross Taylor, who hit a 95 in the opening match against India, to lead from the front against Dhnoi’s men who are expected to roar back like wounded tigers.
Like the opening match, New Zealand’s balanced bowling attack will once again look to exploit the frailties of Indian top order.
The Kiwi pace duo of Kyle Mills and Daryl Tuffey is among wickets in the tournament while the slow bowlers were also chipping in with useful contributions.
The Teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ashish Nehra, Pragyan Ojha, Saurabh Tiwary, Munaf Patel.
New Zealand: Ross Taylor (capt), Kyle Mills (vice-capt), Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Gareth Hopkins (wk), Nathan McCullum, Andy McKay, Jacob Oram, Jeetan Patel, Peter Ingram, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Daryl Tuffey, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.