Manchester: The one problem. The only problem, even. The one team that has continuously exposed that problem. India had their worst of nightmares come true at the most inopportune time – the World Cup semifinal.
India’s biggest weakness is a precise situation where the middle order is left alone without the top order batsmen for company. When Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma – given Shikhar Dhawan is not here – are not around to help the rest of the batting. If there’s a side that has probed this weakness of India regularly in the last few months, it is New Zealand.
92 all out in Hamilton. 18 for 4 in Wellington. 39 for 4 in London (warm-up). And now, 24 for 4 in Manchester. Four matches in a row, New Zealand have exposed with pinpoint accuracy India’s major issue.Pakistan bowled them out for 158 in the Champions Trophy final at The Oval, Sri Lanka skittled them out for 112 in Dharamsala, Australia had them 4 for 3 in Sydney. New Zealand have taken it to a different level, doing it four consecutive times. India might be the stronger and more successful side in general. But New Zealand have a way to trouble them – a bit like Rafael Nadal v Roger Federer, although New Zealand don’t have as much a success rate.
Quite a few Indian fans would have been happy when South Africa defeated Australia in the last league game to set up an India-New Zealand clash. ‘Thank god, we’ve avoided England’ was their predominant feeling. Those were wrong sense of security – New Zealand were never going to be easy, especially under the cloudy skies above Manchester.