The super 10 stage of the ICC World Twenty20 2016 begins tomorrow, with hosts India taking on New Zealand at the Vidharbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur. This is such a pivotal match from the entire tournament’s perspective, because of the competitive nature of this group and every team having only four games in which to qualify for the semifinals. Group 2, comprising of India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh, has two winners from the previous five editions of the world T20 and is probably the ‘Group of Death’.
This game between India and New Zealand is a battle of near-equals, with very little, if at all any, to separate them. However, the nature of the pitch could have a huge say on proceedings tomorrow. In India, a high percentage of games also tend to hinge on the toss and the kind of advantage it can afford a side. Could ‘toss’ once again be a decisive factor and if so, what should the team winning the toss do?
The venue for tomorrow’s game is quite a big one and batsmen from both teams will have to make good contact with the ball to clear the boundary. A more important facet about this ground is the hard and bouncy surface that is on offer usually. From a batsman’s point of view, the ball will come on to the bat and you can garner quick runs.
The captain who wins the toss, however, is likely to not consider the kind of surface alone when making the decision to bat or bowl first.
India, with their versatility and the balance they possess as a T20 side, have given the perception that they are comfortable with chasing down targets. MS Dhoni now has a good, reliable bowling attack at his disposal, and by inviting the opposition to bat first, he relieves his side’s batsmen of the pressure of having to set a target. In Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is), we have seen massive targets being chased down with relative ease and it is difficult to feel comfortable – for the side that batted first – after putting up a total on the board. India, if Dhoni wins the toss, will want to bowl first as they did in all their games in the recently concluded Asia Cup.
From New Zealand’s point of view, they too have a wonderful, incisive bowling attack that will certainly make things difficult for the Indian batsmen. And so, even they might be inclined to bowl first, restrict India to a par score and then try to chase it down. In a 40-over game, the pitch is unlikely to change much from one innings to another, but there are other factors to consider too for the captain who wins the toss.
Two factors will weigh on the captains’ minds more than anything else. They are: dew and the possibility of showers. Tomorrow’s being a night game starting at 7.30 PM IST, there is the possibility of dew kicking in quite early on. It is a factor both India and New Zealand have to contend with. But, they would ideally not want stuff like the dew affecting their bowlers, especially the spinners, who can find it immensely difficult to grip the ball. This is one reason why Dhoni and Kane Williamson might want to bowl first and bat second. Both of them are likely to be on the same wavelength, here.
Tomorrow’s weather forecast in Nagpur is for sunshine and a maximum temperature of 35 degrees celsius. A couple of days ago, in a qualifier match between Scotland and Hong Kong, rain intervened twice and made it a 12-overs-a-side game, which was played in the evening too. Despite tomorrow’s positive forecast, Dhoni and Williamson will want to be absolutely sure that rain would not be the perpetrator in their bids to make a winning start to their world T20 campaigns. Why?
With the Duckworth-Lewis method to be mindful of, the Men in Blue and the Blackcaps would not want to be undone by the aberration this way of determining the match result is. Like with dew, no team has a definite advantage by batting or bowling first after winning the toss. But, it can be slightly easier to have a target in mind and devise a strategy to go about chasing it down.
It promises to be an interesting scenario when the two captains gather in the middle for the toss tomorrow evening. Dhoni, as the captain of the home side, will be the one flipping the coin while Willamson will be calling heads or tails. We are not sure if there will be dew in tomorrow night’s game between India and New Zealand, but the ‘possibility’ of dew and showers too, is likely to persuade both the captains to field first. I can tell you what Dhoni and India will do if they win the toss … they will be bowling first.