Dharamsala, October 21
Flying into the quaint hilly terrain without their balancing figure Hardik Pandya, a frighteningly dominant India’s World Cup campaign will start all over again with Sunday’s blockbuster clash against an ambitious New Zealand.
A freak ankle injury had ruled Pandya out of the big game against the Kiwis who are eyeing their maiden triumph, even as the hosts desperately look to break their long trophy jinx in ICC tournaments.
Pandya’s injury has disturbed the balance of the side as India doesn’t have a like-for-like replacement for him. These thoughts must have crossed the minds of the men who matter the moment Pandya sustained the injury to his left ankle while trying to stop the ball on his follow-through during their match against Bangladesh in Pune.
The star all-rounder has been advised rest and hasn’t travelled to Dharamsala. Currently under the assessment of the BCCI medical team, Pandya is expected to join the squad in Lucknow before the match against England next week.
In the current scenario, seamer Mohammed Shami, who hasn’t played a match so far in the World Cup, is a certainty in the playing XI as the pitch here is expected to favour the fast bowlers to some extent.
The Indian batting has been doing extremely well with the likes of Rohit, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Shubman Gill all scoring runs.
Young Gill would look to make his presence felt one more time after his half-century against Bangladesh.
In bowling, the Indians have fared well with Jasprit Bumrah leading the attack from the front with the new ball and Kuldeep Yadav decimating sides with his guile in the middle overs.
The Kiwis will be without skipper Kane Williamson, who fractured his thumb against Bangladesh and he may only return for the semifinals, provided they make it that far.
But Williamson’s absence has hardly affected the Kiwis with the likes of Devon Conway, Rachin Ravindra and Daryl Mithcell sharing the responsibility in the batting department.
Will Young, too, has been a welcome addition at the opening slot.
Despite being without veteran Tim Southee, who is warming the bench, New Zealand possess a potent bowling attack.
In left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner, New Zealand have the perfect weapon who can pick up wickets and also restrict runs. He is currently the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 11 scalps from four games.