India and New Zealand, both with clean slate so far at the ongoing ICC World Cup, head into a face-off here in chilly Dharamsala at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association ground, with only one of the two destined to fly out of here with an unblemished record after Sunday’s game.
As has been the case with India’s matches at other venues, the upcoming game is also sold out. There is demand as can be gauged from the arrest the police made of a black-marketeer of tickets ahead of this game.
This will also be a game where India are likely to be tested the most.
India beat Australia and Pakistan on Chennai and Ahmedabad pitches, where the oppositions’ frailties against spin and lack of depth in the department were exposed. Both those surfaces got ‘average’ rating from the ICC.
In contrast, batting-friendly surfaces were dished out in Pune and Delhi, where India played Bangladesh and Afghanistan, both of who have depth in the spin department.
So, in a way, the pitch here, which has traditionally supported pace and bounce a bit more than spin and is influenced by the climate, will be akin to what the table-toppers New Zealand are used to back home.
The Kiwis have, anyway, proved themselves to be an all-weather outfit but this will be something they will take gleefully even though it is a fresh pitch.
India coach Rahul Dravid was wary of the opposition especially due to their experience of playing in India.
“I will say that they are playing very good cricket. They play in India a lot. They come on ‘A’ tours to India a lot. Many of their players have played in the IPL, so they’re very used to these conditions,” said Dravid on the eve of the match .
“[They have] A lot of experience and depth in their team as well, and are well balanced.”
India, who will miss the injured Hardik Pandya, will also be up against history as the Men in Blue haven’t beaten Black Caps since 2003 in an ICC tournament, be it the 50-over World Cup, Champions Trophy or even the T20 World Cup.
New Zealand captain Tom Latham is aware of history favouring his side. He believes New Zealand’s ability to adapt to conditions is what works for them not just against India but also in the ICC tournaments as a whole.
The Kiwis have played the final of the last two World Cups.
“Being adaptable is probably one of the most important things for us as a group and [we are] trying to do that as quickly as possible,” said Latham, whose team will have to switch quickly from the spin-friendly surface in Chennai to the one in Dharamsala.
“We are in India, we’re offered different conditions. So, adaptability [is the key, and we are] sticking to our plan as best we can,” Latham added while speaking to the media.
He will be helped in maintaining the blemish-less record against India in ICC events by the fact that all is not well in the India camp.
If Hardik Pandya’s injury – suffered in the previous game – wasn’t enough, Suryakumar Yadav and Virat Kohli got hit by the ball during practice on Saturday and Ishan Kishan was bitten by a honey-bee. All three, however, are said to be fine.