Bengaluru, July 9: Former India captain Sachin Tendulkar is not known for courting controversies. However, one of his recent tweets would not have gone down well with the supporters of the New Zealand cricket team.
Last Sunday (July 7) as India celebrated Mahendra Singh Dhoni's turning 38, Tendulkar too greeted him and wished him all the best for the next two matches. The next two matches are the semifinal and final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 and with India yet to play the last-four tie against New Zealand at Old Trafford on Tuesday, one would think that Tendulkar clearly wrote the Kiwis' off in their clash with Virat Kohli's men.
"Wish you a happy birthday @msdhoni! Have a great year. All the very best for the next two games," the 46-year-old legend tweeted.
"Given there is no third-place play-off for the beaten semifinalists like there are at most World Cups in other sports, Tendulkar obviously sees Kane Williamson's troops as mere cannon fodder for the tournament favourites," New Zealand news portal Stuff said in one of its reports headlined 'Cricket World Cup: Sachin Tendulkar writes off New Zealand's final chances'.
The second semifinal will feature holders Australia and hosts England at Edgbaston on July 11. The final will be played at Lord's on July 14.
New Zealand started their campaign at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 well with wins over Sri Lanka (10 wickets), Bangladesh (2 wickets) and Afghanistan (7 wickets). Their next match against India was washed out and on their return, New Zealand had two close wins over South Africa and the West Indies. But their downfall started thereafter as they lost to Pakistan, Australia and England and yet pipped the Pakistanis to the semifinal owing to a better net run-rate.
India, on the other hand, have been thoroughly clinical. They won seven of their eight completed matches and lost only one game - against England. India eventually finished at the top of the points table after Australia lost to South Africa in their final league match.
India are ranked higher than New Zealand in the ODIs as per the ICC rankings. Although India are second and the Black Caps third, but they have a difference of 11 rating points. And while the current form is favouring India, historically, too, the Men in Blue have a better track record in winning semifinals than the Men in Black.
While Tendulkar might have written off the Kiwis in Tuesday's big clash, certain factors will play a big role in determining the final outcome of the game. They are: the captaincy and batting duel between Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson although for India, it is Rohit Sharma who has stolen the limelight more than Kohli; who bowls better on the day - Trent Boult (15 wickets) or Jasprit Bumrah (17 wickets); the toss since the game will be played on a new pitch and with rain around; whether New Zealand's out-of-form batsmen get back into runs on the big day and finally, the bowling combination that India play in the game - will they play three spinners to rattle the NZ batting?
Whoever finds answers to these questions better and faster will have the final say at Old Trafford.