Kolkata, July 8 (IANS) India are tipped as the favourites to win their third title, but cannot afford to be complacent when they take on New Zealand in the first semi-final while arch-rivals and fellow contenders England and Australia square off in another last-four clash of the World Cup.
Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah have been the lynchpins in India's batting and bowling departments respectively. With five hundreds to his name, Rohit is not only breaking records but also providing the platform at the top which is helping Virat Kohli and Co. score big when batting first. He has 647 runs, the highest in the World Cup, and is showing no signs of stopping.
Bumrah has been India's main bowler for some time now and the ace pacer has so far not only grabbed 17 wickets but also bowled at an astounding economy rate of 4.48.
India's middle order hasn't given a good account of themselves and former skipper MS Dhoni has faced a lot of flak for his slow batting rate. The much debated No.4 spot is still a cause of concern with no one really cementing the place and scoring enough runs.
For India, their bowling has been the best so far, arguably, in the tournament. Besides Bumrah, the likes of Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav give them plenty of quality options. With allrounder Hardik Pandya providing the fifth bowling option, it is Kohli's best opportunity to make use of the variety and pin the opposition down.
In New Zealand, India will find raw pace from the likes of Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult and Matt Henry and one threat that could come their way is the trio shaving off the top order and exposing the fragile middle order.
The Kiwis are dependent on skipper Kane Williamson to be the bulwark with the bat. Besides Williamson, none of the other batters have looked solid and Williamson will hope he can build on his consistent form in the semis. New Zealand's biggest strength is their fiery pace bowling line up led by Ferguson who has so far taken 17 wickets in seven matches.
New Zealand's batting is their weakness. Apart from Williamson who has amassed 481 runs in seven innings, none of the others have scored consistently. They also have a habit of choking under pressure.
Riding on their pace bowling battery and Williamson's imperious batting repertoire, New Zealand can dream of winning their first World Cup provided the others join the party.
They cannot take the pressure of the big stage and the team is filled with players for whom this is the first World Cup. India's might is another big threat they need to quell collectively.