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NZ Game: Will Shami replace Pandya?

October 21, 2023 09:56 IST
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IMAGE: With Hardik Pandya out of the playing XI because of injury, India are likely to include Mohammed Shami for Sunday's World Cup match against New Zealand. Photograph: BCCI

India suffered a major blow with star all-rounder Hardik Pandya ruled out of the crunch game against table-toppers New Zealand, who despite missing Kane Williamson with injury for three games, have won all their first four matches.

Hardik, who sustained an ankle injury against Bangladesh, provided the team with the flexibility to accommodate either an extra spinner or an extra batter.

It is clear that India don't have a like-for-like replacement for Hardik or someone who is even half the player that he is and as such they will be scampering for options to cope with his absence.

The high-profile clash between India and New Zealand will lay down the marker for the World Cup. The winner will close in on the semi-finals with five straight wins, while the loser faces the risk of losing momentum going into the business end of the tournament.

A victory is much-needed for the Indians as they next face a tough encounter against England a week later with the defending champions desperate to bounce back after their shock defeat against Afghanistan.

The Dharamsala pitch could be a major factor in India's team selection. India could be forced to play five specialist bowlers while strengthening their batting to make up for Pandya's absence.

Mohammed Shami could play his first World Cup 2023 game as he could replace Shardul Thakur, who hasn't done much with the ball, while Ishan Kishan may take Hardik's place as the lower order finisher.

It is unlikely that India will field three spinners given that the Kiwis have done well against spin in their previous matches against England, The Netherlands, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

CSK's star opener Devon Conway has led the way with the bat for New Zealand with 249 runs in four innings at a strike rate of 104, while young Rachin Ravindra has stroked 215 runs at a strike rate of 106.

Stand-in captain Tom Latham and Will Young have both hit two fifties each, while Daryl Mitchell and Glenn Phillips have also got among the runs to help the Kiwis cope with Williamson's absence.

In the bowling department, Mitchell Santner has been New Zealand's leading striker with 11 wickets from four games while pacer Matt Henry has picked up nine wickets.

Lockie Ferguson has taken six wickets; Trent Boult has five wickets at an economy rate of 4.14.

Boult, who has played 13 ODIs against India, taking 24 wickets at an average of 24, could be the key bowler for the Kiwis, with the left-arm pacer vital to claiming early wickets with the incoming delivery against Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill and Virat Kohli.

India's top order struggle against quality pace early on when Australia had India reeling on 2/3 or when Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf reduced them to 66/4 in the Asia Cup match in Pallekele in September.

India fans will remember how Boult and Henry sent India collapse for 221 in the World Cup semi-final in Manchester four years ago.

New Zealand have a superior record against India in World Cups with five wins from nine games played. India have won three with one match abandoned due to rain. But India have dominated when playing at home against the Kiwis, winning 29 out of 38 ODI games played in total.

Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, K L Rahul (wicket-keeper), Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj.

Who do you think should be part of India's playing for the World Cup match against New Zealand?

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