How NZ just upset India..

It is something about World Cup (WC) Semi Finals and NZ (or Black Caps) that we get such matches. Whether it was 92 against Pak (which NZ lost) or 2015 against South Africa (NZ won) or the 2019 against India (NZ won), all these matches have been absolute classics. Though the one between Aus and  South Africa in 1999 is going to take something to beat.

NZ comes across as an interesting team, a team which usually punches above its weight. It had played 758 matches on the even of the 2019 World Cup and won 343 and lost 370 of them (6 ties and 40 no result). It has a win-loss ratio of 0.924 which is 9th in the list of countries that have played ODI cricket since 1971. Infact, it has lower Win/Loss ratio than Afghanistan! Even Nepal which has played 6 ODIs, has a better W/L ratio of 1 (3 won and 3 lost).

But come to WC, NZ is a different ball game.

Infact when it comes to qualifying for Semis, NZ has the best record amidst cricket playing teams.

Of the 12 WC so far including 2019, NZ has managed semis in 8 of the editions of which 2 it managed to reach finals. In the last 4 WC, it has managed the SF stage each time. India has manged 7 semi finals of which it has won two and was runner up in 2003. Australia has reached 8 SF of which it has managed to reach finals 7 times, won 5 of them and runner up in other two, It has to be seen what Aus do today.

In 1992 SF, NZ were favorites to win against Pakistan only to be stunned by Inzamam Ul Haq who played a blinder. Though, on seeing the scorecard today, one realises Moin Khan and Javed Miandad (who else) played an equally stellar role.

In 2015 SF, South Africa were favorites but were outplayed by a former South African Grant Elliott. I mean South Africa has always ended on the wrong side of all such matches and this match was no different. The tears of AB De Villiers remain fresh in memory.

In 2019, the plot was very different. In both the earlier semi-finals, NZ side was really good and most players were in form.

In 1992, Captain Martin Crowe had lit up the tournament both by deploying great tactics and his batting. NZ had topped the table with 7 wins in 8 matches and Crowe leading scorer (he finished with highest aggregate of 456 runs). In 2015, they did one better and won all the group matches with Captain Brendon Mccullum setting things on fire while opening and asking team to attack at all costs.

In 2019, none of these things were there. NZ was neither a team which threatened nor its players were in form. It had a brilliant captain as Kane Williamson who was the only batter in form with all others a pale shadow of their past. The bowlers looked in good form but could only do so much. NZ barely managed to qualify for the semis. Of the 9 matches, they won 5, lost 3 and one was washed away due to rain. Moreover, they lost their last three matches in a row and scrapped through SFs with a better run rate than Pakistan.

Moreover, NZ was against India which was the best team of the tournament. Period. India not just topped the table (losing only to England) but also reclaimed their number one ODI ranking as tournament progressed. It had the number one ranked ODI batsman, number one ranked ODI bowler and looked a highly formidable team by all means. The only chink in the armor was lack of a good number 4 batsman but no team reached that far as the top three did the job while setting targets or chasing them. Rohit Sharma had already hit 5 hundreds in the tournament, a new record.

It resembled the 1983 World Cup Final where WI was in the same seat as India and India was in the same seat as NZ. And how the results were the same with the top team lose out to the team which no one thought could win. Having said that, India lost to NZ in the practice match which was a blip in their campaign. Perhaps, this is why Indian captain said they knew NZ would (and could) attack.

NZ pretty much outplayed India in all three departments. If not for Jadeja and Dhoni, it would have been an embarrassment.

This victory of NZ and loss of India was just another classic David vs Goliath match where David wins. There will be fair bit of articles written now and coming years reflecting on this major upset.

Some interesting pieces I read:

I mean cricket journalism is such a treasure these days…

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