ICC World Cup semi-final: Can India put 2019 scars behind them at Wankhede?
"It may be at the back of your mind... but it's the past," says captain Rohit Sharma
It may be D-Day yet for the Men in Blue tomorrow, 15 November.
It has been a month nothing short of magical for India—indeed, longer, all through this World Cup campaign. But the time has come when they may be battling to overcome the weight of the occasion as they square off against their nemesis from the 2019 semi-finals at Old Trafford — New Zealand.
In a signed column on Monday, 13 November Ross Taylor — one of the best batters ever for the Black Caps, who was a part of that winning squad — sounded the alarm bells for the hosts when he said that India will be "nervous" to face this team.
It may be a thought with which Rohit Sharma’s gung-ho bunch will vehemently disagree if asked, as the external factors—from the conditions to the crowd—will be loaded in their favour this time. But Sharma himself, the mastermind of Team India's campaign, was not entirely dismissive about the previous scars.
He did say the current bunch believed in staying in the present, though. ‘’ I think it’s obviously in the back of your mind, you know what has happened in the past. But what has happened in the past is the past,’’ he said at the pre-match media conference.
‘’I mean, for us, this current crop of players, they're very much into what is happening today, what can happen tomorrow. Those are the things they try and focus on," Sharma the Hitman observed.
"I don’t see them talking about how we won the last World Cup, how we won our first World Cup. The focus is always on the present. And that, I believe is a very, very good thing."
"Going into a tournament like this, from game no. 1, the focus has always been on what we can achieve today.’’Rohit Sharma, captain, Indian cricket team
Taylor’s comments that the memories of 2019 game may be playing on the minds of Team India was broached before Kane Williamson, the rival captain as well.
Williamson was a study in grace and sporting spirit when they lost the final to England on boundary counts alone last time.
Asked whether the Kiwis might pull off an encore against India tomorrow, he replied: ‘’I mean, I think the game will be a little bit different. It might be played over one day rather than two... (then) looking at the weather... But at the same time, teams work hard to get to this stage. They have to play a lot of good cricket within the format or the structure of the tournament to get here over such a long period of time.’’
And Williamson's men have certainly shown remarkable fortitude from being a doubtful starter in this tournament to be standing in the last four.
The journey of the two teams had been a contrasting one thus far. While India’s 9–0 romp is an unprecedented one, New Zealand’s progress has been rocky, as they won the first four games before slumping into four losses on the trot.
However, the match against the Kiwis in Dharamsala saw India winning possibly their closest league game, by four wickets.
The Black Caps had also spoilt the party for India in the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final in Hampshire in 2021. So, calling them one of the "most disciplined" teams, Sharma admitted the need for India to be on their guard this time:
‘’They’ve been very consistent for so many years now, playing semi-finals and the finals of probably all ICC tournaments in the last... I don't know, maybe six, seven years from 2015 onwards, if I'm not wrong?
‘’Yes, we do understand what they bring to the table and how they play their cricket," the captain said.
"We have been closely following all the teams as to where their strength lies, where their weakness lies. Based on that, we try and go out there and play the game,’’ he concluded.
Also Read: Rohit Sharma: The man on a mission
CATCH THE MATCH!
First semi-final India vs New Zealand
Where Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
When 2 pm IST, 15 November 2023