Sports do not build character. They reveal it.
- Heywood Broun
The 2019 ICC World Cup is down to its last three and most important games — the semi-finals, followed by the final at Lord’s. The tournament which got underway on May 30 has seen 41 matches being played, while bad weather played spoilsport during four contests. As the dust settles on the league phase, India, Australia, England and New Zealand qualified for the semifinals. Two-time champions India after proving their dominance in the league stage will look to brush aside New Zealand and book a final berth when the two sides face-off in the 1st semi-final at the Old Trafford in Manchester on Tuesday. The second semifinal pits old foes Australia and England at Birmingham’s Edgbaston on Thursday. All-round performances and some individual batting brilliance saw India top the World Cup 2019 league stage. India, whose league stage match against New Zealand was washed out, have suffered just one defeat at this World Cup so far, against England, and ended on top of the 10-team group stage, making them strong favourites to beat the Black Caps. New Zealand, who only qualified for the semi-finals in fourth place on the basis of net run-rate, have lost their last three games — against Pakistan, holders Australia and England. New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, has been in fine form, making match-winning hundreds against South Africa and the West Indies.
According to cricket pundits the Men in Blue have the easiest task against an off-colour Kiwis, while Australia must recover from injury concerns and defeat by South Africa before facing Englishmen. Apart from the flop against England and the near stumble against Afghanistan, India are in fine fettle. Rohit Sharma has been eating runs for breakfast, his century against Sri Lanka was his record-breaking fifth of the tournament and he is the competition’s leading run scorer with 647. KL Rahul has also chipped in with 359 runs but, Kohli apart, the middle order have not quite fired. Captain Kohli is renowned for relishing the big occasion. But the No.4 conundrum still remains unsolved. Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya add fire; MS Dhoni’s powers seem to be waning. Fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah has been the spearhead of a well-balanced bowling attack. Mohammed Shami is also a threat.
The Black Caps began their campaign with a bang. As expected, the captain Williamson has led from the front with the bat in hand. Williamson is their best bet, but him not making it big in their last three games resulted in losses. A fit Lockie Ferguson is also key to New Zealand’s success as he has the ability to trouble batsman even on flat pitches with his raw pace. After all, he is their leading wicket-taker with 17 scalps. It is advantage India against Black Caps today.