New Zealand’s Daryl Mitchell plays a shot during the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup semifinal against England at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on November 10, 2021. Image Credit: AFP

Daryl Mitchell, who? Indians know him; the New Zealand opener killed off their challenge. Now England know him; he soured their semifinal in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.

At the start of the tournament, Mitchell wasn’t a favourite even among New Zealanders. When the Kiwis experimented with openers over the past couple of years, Mitchell was never part of the plans. In the 116 T20s he played before the World Cup, Mitchell never opened the innings.

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So eyebrows were raised as Mitchell walked in with Martin Guptill to open. Former captain Brendon McCullum was the first to question the decision after the Kiwis lost to Pakistan in their World Cup opener.

In the next match, the critics were silenced, with Mitchell steering New Zealand to a crucial win against India. A win that was pivotal in their qualification to the last four.

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Today, Mitchell is a New Zealand hero. A hero who catapulted them into the final after Jimmy Neesham provided the lift-off when the match looked lost. If Neesham’s departure raised doubts, Mitchell erased them with two huge sixes, and the Kiwis won with an over to spare.

The high-pressure situation isn’t unfamiliar to Mitchell. Along with Neesham, he’s been a finisher for New Zealand until he was made an opener. In Super Smash — New Zealand’s domestic T20 competition — Mitchell had struck most number of sixes (48) since 2016. So, those two sixes and a four in the 19th over, bowled by England’s Chris Woakes, wasn’t a surprise.

New Zealanders, they know Daryl Mitchell and his six-hitting. Now, after the 47-ball 72, the rest of the cricket world too knows it.