In a metro, with its soundscapes ranging from Arabian Sea whispers to local train rhythms, the maximum decibel levels will emanate from the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday.
The World Cup semifinal pitting India and New Zealand, features rivals with a recurring history of key ICC battles, be it the 2019 World Cup semifinal or the 2021 World Test Championship final.
Both clashes were held in England and the results were identical as New Zealand prevailed twice. Cut to the present, Rohit Sharma’s men are enjoying a rich vein of form. Having defeated all its rivals in the league stage, including New Zealand at Dharamshala, India is primed to soar.
Skipper Rohit has offered rapid starts and with Shubman Gill chipping in while Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, K.L. Rahul and Suryakumar Yadav having collectively found their stride, India is a batting superpower.
This is a set that blends aggression with aesthetics, and muscle with mayhem.
The bowling, led by Jasprit Bumrah, has been potent, running through sides, much akin to Sunil Gavaskar’s men during the 1985 World Championship of Cricket in Australia.
The pace troika and spin duo have combined well and so far Hardik Pandya has not been missed. Equally, all talk about the absent Rishabh Pant has subsided.
Such has been this team’s performance.
But stepping in with five pure bowlers has its risks if one gets injured or has a low-key day. In the last game against the Netherlands in Bengaluru, Mohammed Siraj suffered an injury while messing up a catch.
Though he returned later for a second spell, Rohit employed Kohli, Gill, Suryakumar and himself briefly at the bowling crease. This part-time back-up has to be ready in knock-out tussles.
New Zealand, a unit featuring men of quiet words, rainbow smiles, enormous patience and ever-ready for a tough scrap on the turf, does step in as the trailing rival trying to catch up with a domineering host.
But the Black Caps do know these last-mile skirmishes and the attendant pressures.
In Kane Williamson, the opposition has a pragmatic leader, who can deal with malfunctioning microphones in press conferences, like it happened here on Tuesday, and fiery bowlers, with an equanimity and tongue-in-cheek humour that is endearing.
Rachin Ravindra has been an excellent batter and the bowlers, be it seam or spinners like Mitchell Santner, can test the very best.
World Cup semifinals are always tricky. The last time Mumbai conducted a semifinal, way back in 1987, England’s Graham Gooch swept aside Indian spinners Maninder Singh and Ravi Shastri.
New Zealand, too, can spring a few surprises while India eyes a 10th consecutive win and book its flight for Sunday’s final in Ahmedabad.
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