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New Zealand players gearing up for the semifinals against India at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Monday. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: As New Zealand prepare to take on India in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 semi-finals, it is impossible not to look back at the parallels with 2019.

Four years ago, India went into the semi-final in Manchester as the form side in the tournament, while we were more focused on ensuring our net run-rate would keep Pakistan out of reach for the final spot in the top four.

This time around, India are even bigger favourites, at home and having played so well during the group stage.

Strange situation

But when we have nothing to lose, New Zealand teams can be dangerous. If there is a team that India will be nervous facing, it will be this New Zealand side.

We’re up against it, of course, but that was also the case in 2019. That was a two-day one-day game! It was a strange situation for me, I was not out overnight. That is nerve-wracking enough in Test cricket, let alone a one-dayer and a World Cup semi-final.

Ross Taylor

At Old Trafford, I’d say the crowd was probably about 80 per cent Indian, with a sprinkling of New Zealand friends and family and then some English.

We had to back ourselves in that game. South Africa had just scored 300 there so most commentators thought we were crazy because we were scoring pretty slowly, but Kane Williamson and myself were confident that 240-250 would be a competitive total.

Early wickets crucial

That is what we ended up on, and then Matt Henry and Trent Boult got us some early wickets, which we knew would be crucial.

The other thing I remember from the game is Martin Guptill’s run-out of MS Dhoni. Obviously everyone remembers the run-out of Guptill in the final, but that one in the semi-final gets a lot of air time in New Zealand as well.

I was also on the end of a run-out in that game. Ravindra Jadeja got me from the boundary, I was sure I would be OK, but he got a direct hit. He really is a freak and I am sure he will be crucial again this time.

Mumbai is usually a ground where you can expect big scores, but the big test for New Zealand will be dealing with the conditions.

The toss is important but if New Zealand can start well with bat and ball, that will give them a lot of confidence to stay in the fight.

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Rachin Ravindra, who came in as a replacement to Michael Bracewell, has been really impressive during this World Cup. Image Credit: AFP

The first ten overs in both innings are crucial. When India are batting, you want to get them two or three down in the first ten overs to put them under pressure. They rely heavily on an excellent top three. There is Shubman Gill, the No 1 player in the world, and then Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. We need to try to make inroads and put the middle order under pressure. If you can do that, it stifles them and affects how early they can assert their dominance.

Big day for Rachin

Then when India are bowling, it is similar. You want to score runs but it is also vital we keep wickets in hand against weapons like Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami. When they get on a roll, they can be a lethal force, and the spinners can really pile on the pressure. If you keep wickets in hand, that is when it becomes a bit easier, rather than having to chase the game.

It will be a big day for Rachin Ravindra. When you have a guy who is named after a combination of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, it is special to play India in India in a World Cup semi-final.

We needed someone to score heavily in the tournament. I am not sure many people would have expected it to be Rachin, but I have been really impressed, not only by the runs he has scored but also the way he has gone about it, his tempo and calmness. He is just going out there and batting like he did as a little kid. He has not put any pressure on himself and I hope he continues to do that.

He has a big part to play in the semi-final and in the future for New Zealand. It is funny to think that if Michael Bracewell had made it to the World Cup, Rachin probably would not have made it. Luck has probably played a part, but we all need that.

Hopefully, the luck is with New Zealand on Wednesday.


Ross Taylor is a former New Zealand captain