World Cup 2019: Who will India pick for the semis?
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The world's second-ranked ODI team - India has been in marauding form in the ICC World Cup 2019 storming into the semis and is sitting at the top of the points table. The Men in Blue's near-clinical performances with the bat and bowl, brilliance in field and ingenious tactics have all been able to captivate the viewers.
Such metronomic consistency and more than 100% commitment by every individual, pose tough selection questions in front of Kohli and the management.
Selecting a playing XI for a semi-final of a marquee tournament like a World Cup with hopes of over a billion people pinned on him is not as easy as hitting a cover drive is for Kohli. The selection needs to factor in the opposition, the playing conditions, and the weaknesses in the Indian team.
India will be up against an equanimous New Zealand side led by the ever so composed Kane Williamson. The biggest selection conundrum for Kohli would be choosing three players out of the following five - Jadeja, Kuldeep, Chahal, Bhuvneshwar and Shami.
The remaining eight players to complete the XI are pretty much fixed. Let's analyze the above problem based on the factors mentioned above.
The opposition - New Zealand
NZ started off the tournament as one of the favourites but it has all gone south for the Black Caps in the past few matches. Their dwindling form especially that of the batting department should perk up the Indian team. The openers Nicholls and Guptill have failed to fire as a result of which Williamson and Taylor are forced to play in a damage-control mode.
Historically, the Kiwis have struggled against wrist spin. Most of their batsmen - Nicholls, Latham, Neesham and Grandhomme have not been exposed much to quality spin bowling. Taylor sweeps well while playing spin but sweeping against the turn in case of Chahal or Jadeja (or googlies of Kuldeep) will make him vulnerable.
Except for Williamson who plays spin exceedingly well, New Zealand batsmen could be vulnerable against Indian spinners. Thus, this factor weighs slightly in favour of Kuldeep and Chahal.
Weather would likely be a bit dry and chances of rain are almost zero on Tuesday (as per accuweather.com). The pitch has been a bat-first-win-the-game kind of a wicket with teams batting first winning the game. This is one track that offers some assistance to the spinners as the ball grips more.
Jadeja's chances become stronger in this case as he bowls accurately, leaks fewer runs, picks wickets if there is assistance and makes that batting order look stronger. Also, Kuldeep would be a good choice given his performance against Pakistan on the same pitch.
Issues with the current team
India's noticeable weaknesses are its relatively long tail and lack of good death-bowling. Other than Bumrah, who has been amazing, pacers have leaked runs at the death especially Shami.
Batting first or second, depth in batting is crucial and Jadeja could provide that. Death-bowling too would play an important role as New Zealand bat deep with Santner coming in at no. 8. In that case, Jadeja's better all-round abilities and Bhuvneshwar's better death-bowling skills help address the above two issues well.
Thus, as per the analysis of the above three factors, it is likely that Jadeja, Kuldeep and Bhuvneshwar may get into the playing XI while Shami and Chahal may have to sit out.
Also see – India vs New Zealand head to head stats