Watch Ayaz Memon's preview of India vs New Zealand above
After months of preparation from the teams, weeks of non-preparation from the organisers, the day many cricket fans have been waiting for is here. The first Super 10 match of the ICC World T20 2016 sees hosts and firm favourites, India take on New Zealand in what promises to be a cracker.
India come in to the tournament riding a wave of T20I success -- quite the contrast to the gloom surrounding the side after the whitewash in the hands of South Africa in October last year. New Zealand come into the tournament in good form as well after convincing series wins over Sri Lanka and Pakistan in their own backyard.
Veteran cricket journalist Ayaz Memon, or Cricketwallah as he is known in the cricketing community, in conversation with Firstpost's Vinayakk Mohanrangan, preview the match between India and New Zealand in Nagpur.
"In my opinion, these are the two teams who must progress from this group, so whoever wins on Tuesday gets a head-start. It is not going to be easy for either team, but I expect a humdinger," Ayaz told Firstpost.
Talking about the explosive New Zealand batting lineup, Ayaz reserved special praise for Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson -- 'a class act in any format '-- the stars of the Kiwi batting lineup. He also spoke about the ability of Corey Anderson to change a game from the middle order.
'New Zealand's only weakness seems to be their spin bowling department. Mitchell Santner is good, but he is not established himself yet. They have a lethal fast bowling attack with Trent Boult, Tim Southee but spin is an area of concern," said Ayaz.
As for India, the only doubtful area in the starting XI seems to be between the returning Mohammad Shami and the man enjoying a swansong, Ashish Nehra.
'Given that India will be desperate to win the first match, they will want to go with a settled XI. It is up to Shami to force Dhoni's hands into picking him as he is the one making a comeback," said Ayaz.
While spin is New Zealand's weakness, it is undoubtedly India's strength. 'Not taking anything away from the faster bowlers, R Ashwin, and Ravindra Jadeja will need to be stellar bowlers for India,' Ayaz said.
The first match of the tournament-proper looks like a cracker by all accounts. When the two captains not known to flinch under pressure take the field on Tuesday for the toss, expect a massive roar from the Nagpur crowd that will dissolve all the uncertainties that have mired the build-up to this tournament.
Firstpost's Game plan with Ayaz Memon will be streamed live on Firstpost throughout the World T20. Follow @FirstpostSports on Twitter for more details.
Nagpur: The superb build-up run has made India the clear favourites for an unprecedented second World T20 title but the in-form hosts will have to guard against complacency when they take on a spirited New Zealand in their campaign-opener in Nagpur on Tuesday.
No host country has won the World T20 world title in the last five editions and none has repeated a title triumph, but India's settled combination, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and familiarity with the conditions make them the odds-on favourites to script history.
The 2007 Champions, India go into the Super 10 Group 2 clash against New Zealand with their tails up as the number one ranked team in the world.
India have been on a roll in the shortest form of the game, winning their last seven outings which included a 3-0 whitewash of World 50-over champions Australia in the latter's backyard.
They then went on to win the Asia Cup on a canter after beating Sri Lanka at home 2-1.
The five consecutive wins in Dhaka, including in the summit clash against Bangladesh that led to their continental supremacy in the T20 game, has given the team a huge morale boost.
However, Dhoni's men will be wary of the fact that they have never beaten New Zealand in T20s in four outings in the past including once during their stunning title run in the inaugural edition in 2007 in South Africa.
But in home conditions, India would be a big threat to the rest of the competitors, including New Zealand.
The minor hiccup in India's build-up to this competition was their loss to South Africa by four runs in a practice match and this was perhaps a wake-up call for the team to avoid being complacent.
India do have the wherewithal and the personnel to script history and a win in tomorrow's opening game at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha would give them the ideal momentum to take on the challenges ahead head-on.
Virat Kohli has been in terrific form, in the last two months. On top of his game, the Test skipper has made four half-centuries in seven innings, and two other scores in the 40s, besides leading four successful run-chases.
With an average of over 50 after 38 matches, he remains one of the players who will be feared by the opposition along with the equally talented Rohit Sharma who is set to play in his sixth WT20 championship.
Shikhar Dhawan's form has been patchy at best but the knock of 73 he made in the warm-up game against South Africa should have given him as well as the team a considerably boost going into the tournament.
With the likes of Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni himself to follow apart from Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, India can bat deep down the order.
The unearthing of Jasprit Bumrah to bowl effectively at the early stages as well as in the death has given the team the much-needed go-to-man when things don't go as per plans.
With the vastly experienced Ashish Nehra, who has played in just one WT20 event earlier, and the timely return to fitness of Mohammed Shami, India have the pacers to do the job effectively. To add variety to medium-pace, there's Pandya.
It's in the spin department that they have an embarrassment of riches, barring a leg spinner.
The duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja should be the front-runners to take up two spots and the team has the choice of adding either Harbhajan Singh or Pawan Negi to the combination.
New Zealand too have the players to trouble India although they would be missing the fire-power and attacking captaincy of Brendon McCullum who has retired recently.
Led by Kane Williamson, a classically elegant batsman who ups his gears when opening in T20Is, the Kiwis are well-served with a set of explosive batsmen in Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Grant Elliott, Ross Taylor and Corey Anderson.
They have a very good pace battery, including left-right combinations, and a varied spin attack to fall upon in the middle overs, for containment as well as taking wickets.
The Kiwis had also won four out of their last five T20 Internationals -- against Pakistan and Sri Lanka -- but showed little hints of vulnerability to spin by England who checked in their stunning progress in the warm-up game in Mumbai.
A packed house, which will be a huge plus for India is expected to be treated to some thrilling on-field action at the Jamtha stadium.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, Pawan Negi, Ajinkya Rahane, Mohammed Shami.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (C), Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Ross Taylor, Colin Munro, Mitchell Santer, Nathan McCullum, Grant Elliott, Mitchell McClenaghan, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Adam Milne, Ish Sodhi, Corey Anderson.
Match begins at 07:30 pm.
First Published On : Mar 15, 2016 16:58 IST