A mountain rivulet with clear water reflecting bright sunshine gurgled beneath the narrow bridge and the cab driver quipped: “Once Adam Gilchrist hit a six in an IPL game and the ball landed into this stream.”
The nearby HPCA Stadium always offers enough interplay between nature and sport with the mighty Himalayas being a permanent backdrop.
Like the Galle Stadium fringed by the sea in Sri Lanka, Dharamshala’s cricketing outpost is another picture postcard venue. Despite the forecast for rains, this hilly terrain offering stunning vistas and swirling cold air should hopefully warm up on Sunday when India takes on New Zealand in a World Cup game. The rivals have clambered up these steep heights with four consecutive triumphs under their belts.
Having scuppered India’s World Cup dreams with a semifinal win at Manchester in the 2019 edition, New Zealand is a unit that the Men in Blue would be wary about.
Yet, the host holds an edge even if the weather patterns would suit the visitors with their affinity for dipping temperatures. India will miss its injured all-rounder Hardik Pandya forcing one change in the playing eleven and it remains to be seen if more replacements are in the offing.
The batting has been in order, riding largely on the impetus that skipper Rohit Sharma generates and the assurance that Virat Kohli provides. Shubman Gill, K.L. Rahul and Shreyas Iyer have had their stints too while it would be better for the last named to be more judicious in his shot selection.
Lining up against them would be the New Zealand seamers offering seductive charms around the off-stump with Tim Southee back in the reckoning, and there are adequate spinners too like Mitchell Santner.
Despite the heartbreak at Manchester, contests featuring India and New Zealand in the World Cups have offered some vignettes in the past. During a 1987 clash in Nagpur, Chetan Sharma bagged a hat-trick and the great Sunil Gavaskar (103 n.o., 88b, 10x4, 3x6) smashed his maiden ODI ton! India wouldn’t mind a repeat act from its current squad.
Right from the time it defeated England in this World Cup’s opener at Ahmedabad on October 5, New Zealand retained its momentum and got past the Netherlands, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
But playing against India in its home environs is a different proposition and regular skipper Kane Williamson’s absence would be felt even if stand-in captain Tom Latham has helmed his team well.
New Zealand has always been about the sum being bigger than the parts and it helps that its batting, leaning on Devon Conway, has been on the mark. And on Sunday, hopefully the weather gods would restrain damp clouds from slithering through the surrounding mountain gaps.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), K.L. Rahul (wicket-keeper), Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur and Kuldeep Yadav.
New Zealand: Tom Latham (captain & wicket-keeper), Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Daryl Mitchell, James Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee and Will Young.
Umpires: Michael Gough and Richard Kettleborough; Third umpire: Paul Wilson; Match referee: Andrew Pycroft.
Match starts at 2 p.m.
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