Mumbai: Hosts India will face New Zealand in the first semi-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 on Wednesday at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. The match will start at 2 pm.
Having already broken the jinx of losing to the Kiwis in ICC tournaments by beating them at a league stage match in Dharamsala, Team India lead by Rohit Sharma will be looking to avenge the agonising 18-run defeat in a rain-affected 2019 World Cup semi-final spanning two days in Manchester. Rohit and star batsman Virat Kohli were in the squad then.
India skipper, however, insisted his side’s record of big game defeats by New Zealand was “all in the past” as they prepared for the semifinal. “None of the guys were born when we won our first World Cup and then, when we won our second World Cup in 2011, half of the guys were not even playing the game.” He added: “This current crop of players is very much into what is happening today, what can happen tomorrow…The focus is on how they can get better as a player, what they can bring to the team and the things they can improve,” he told a pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
In addition, the Wankhede Stadium holds fond memories for India as the 2011 World Cup final, which India won, was played here.
Both teams have had a good run in the tournament. India and New Zealand were at one stage undefeated with four wins from four matches. While the Men in Blue stretched it to an unprecedented 9-0, the Kiwis faced a setback midway, registering four successive losses against India, Australia, South Africa and Pakistan, and being ravaged by injuries, before sealing a slot in the semis by defeating Sri Lanka in a must-win match.
Another coincidence is that India lost Hardik Pandya to an ankle injury, while New Zealand suffered a major blow to their bowling department as star pacer Matt Henry was ruled out following an injury to his right hamstring.
A slow pitch is expected at the Wankhede Stadium after team management reportedly had a request granted by BCCI curators to shave off most of the grass on the playing surface, the Indian Express reported.
A Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) official reportedly confirmed to the newspaper that a message was conveyed to prepare a slow track before the home team reached Mumbai. “It won’t be a turner but the team had asked for a slow pitch. It was the main reason we shaved off the grass,” a source told the newspaper.
This assumes significance as India have proved hard to beat on slow wickets at home in recent years.
The pitch dynamics at Wankhede suggest that winning the toss might hold significant importance as chasing has proved difficult during the tournament with Glenn Maxwell’s heroic 200-run knock being the only successful pursuit in four games held there.
Football legend David Beckham, superstars Rajinikanth, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan will be among the top celebrities who will be attending the the first semifinal.