"India favourites to win the World Cup irrespective of outcome against New Zealand": Ross Taylor
India will lock horns against New Zealand at Dharamshala on Sunday. Both teams are undefeated in the tournament, having won four matches each and having eight points.
DHARAMSHALA: Ahead of the clash between India and New Zealand, former New Zealand batter Ross Taylor lauded New Zealand and its stand-in skipper Tom Latham for their performances, but also warned that Men in Blue in their home conditions is a "different beast" and will remain favourites to win the tournament irrespective of the result of the match.
India will lock horns against New Zealand at Dharamshala on Sunday. Both teams are undefeated in the tournament, having won four matches each and having eight points. New Zealand is at the top due to a better net run rate.
"I arrived in India on Friday and it is fantastic to be here in time for what is set to be a great match between the two remaining unbeaten teams," said Ross in his exclusive column as quoted by ICC.
"Of course, the fact New Zealand are one of them is particularly pleasing and I have been really impressed with how they have gone about it so far. They have played fantastically well. The first game would have come as a bit of a surprise to some - not necessarily beating England, but the manner in which they did so," he added.
Ross said that other than some overs of being put under pressure against Afghanistan, Kiwis have played some "very consistent and dominant cricket". "Everyone has stood up at different stages. A lot has been made of the injuries to Tim Southee and Kane Williamson but the people who have come in have stepped up, particularly Will Young and Rachin Ravindra," he said.
Ross lauded Rachin for his performances, saying that he has taken his chance and looks all set to become a key part of the Kiwi side for years to come. "If you had said two or three weeks before the tournament that Rachin would have been in the starting line-up, I do not think anyone would have picked that," said Ross.
"He pushed himself in there with his performances in the warm-up games and even then, I do not think people thought he would have batted as high up the order as he has," he continued.
"But he has taken his chance and he looks set to be a key part of the New Zealand side not only in this tournament but also in the years to come," concluded Ross about the all-rounder. Ravindra (215 runs in four matches at 71.66, one century and fifty, three wickets) and Will Young (124 in three innings with two fifties) have been standout batters for the Kiwis.
"Tom Latham has stepped up too and shown fantastic leadership. Kane is obviously a big part of the team but they have played well without him for a while through this year and they know they can win without him, which is important," said Latham.
Kane had made a comeback against Bangladesh but an injury to his thumb after being hit by a ball while running has put his further participation in doubt again.
Ross said that NZ will have to get off to fine starts as they have some tough games coming up, starting with the Indian fixture. "India in their home conditions are a different beast and they have started unsurprisingly strongly - I see them as favourites to win the competition at this stage, no matter what happens in Dharamshala tomorrow," said Ross.
The former batter lauded pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Ravi Jadeja and the top-order consisting of skipper Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill and Virat Kohli for their performances. "Jasprit Bumrah has led the attack brilliantly, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravi Jadeja are bowling really nicely and their top three have been fantastic for a long time," said Ross.
"You cannot expect your top three to score runs all the time but they also now seem to have found a nice combination at four and five with Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul. New Zealand will need early wickets to put that middle order under pressure," he added. Ross said the crowd, the majority of which will have Indian supporters will play its part in the match but also thinks that Kiwis will thrive there.
"The crowd will naturally play a part but I think New Zealand will thrive in that atmosphere. Every time you come here, you play in front of full crowds and you know you will be up against it. But at the same time, that's what you like about playing at World Cups, you want to play in front of full stadiums and test yourself against the best. The crowds here are very vocal but very fair at the same time," said Ross. Ross noted that NZ has a strong record against India, having not lost a fixture at an ICC event for 20 years to them.
"I am not sure quite what explains why New Zealand keep beating India at these tournaments but if you talk to a lot of Indian supporters, New Zealand are their second favourite team - maybe that has something to do with it, who knows?!." "Four years ago, we played them in the semi-final in Manchester and it was an iconic occasion. There was the Martin Guptill run out of MS Dhoni, the game going over two days because of the rain and ultimately, New Zealand coming out on top," recalled Ross about the 2019 semifinal and Dhoni runout that cost India the game.
"Hopefully, there will be a similar result tomorrow - top of the table at the halfway stage would be a great place to be," he concluded.