India to face tricky NZ test

NAGPUR (India) • Favourites India face an awkward first assignment in their World T20 cricket campaign in Nagpur today against a big-hitting New Zealand team who are determined to show there is life after Brendon McCullum.

After 10 victories in their last official T20 internationals, the hosts are on such a roll that skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is having to dampen expectations that they are surefire winners.

But India have a woeful track record against New Zealand in World T20 tournaments, losing four of five previous encounters.

And, although New Zealand have been undermined by inspirational skipper McCullum's retirement, their performance in warm-up matches shows they are not lacking in firepower.

They thrashed the holders Sri Lanka last Thursday when Colin Munro, Corey Anderson and Grant Elliott all posted half-centuries in rapid time.

Skipper Kane Williamson then smashed an entertaining 63 when they narrowly lost to England in their final warm-up match on Saturday.

India also suffered a rare defeat in what was an unofficial T20 international on Saturday when they lost by four runs to South Africa in another high-scoring match.

With their powerful openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma hitting a purple patch, and the veteran Yuvraj Singh also in good nick, India will expect to post a big total on a batsman-friendly pitch in Nagpur.

Like many of his fellow skippers, Williamson believes that India are the team to beat but says his side do not lack in belief.

"No doubt India will be possibly the favourites but all the teams will come here thinking they can win it," he said.

Dhoni has been downplaying expectations, joking that India can still step up a gear or two: "We are running on the sixth gear (but) I know the technology has gone into the eighth gear."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2016, with the headline 'India to face tricky NZ test'. Print Edition | Subscribe