India v New Zealand, Trent Bridge, 12 June 1999by John Polack
When the players of New Zealand and India take the field at Trent Bridge for the last of their Super Six games, all of them will enter the arena in the knowledge that there are no longer any second chances for their teams. Whilst the applicability of the term ‘do-or-die’ in sport is often questionable, this is indeed effectively a knockout game - and one which will go a very long way (and, for at least one of them, all of the way) toward sealing their fates completely. Moreover, although there are many who believe that these are two of the unluckier sides in the tournament, the hands of fortune will dispense no overdue concessions to the loser of this match nor, perhaps, even the winner.
India’s strength throughout the Cup has been its batting - and, more particularly, the performances of its upper order players. Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid in particular - and Sachin Tendulkar and Ajay Jadeja to a lesser extent - have produced some wonderful deeds over the course of this competition and it would be a shame to see India disappear from the Cup at this juncture, if for no other reason than it would deprive us of witnessing their talents any further in the event. To that end, the challenge on this occasion is for the team’s bowlers to uphold their end of the contract and afford their batsmen the type of support to which their play during the last four weeks has allowed them to feel entitled. Venkatesh Prasad filled the breach more than admirably against Pakistan; Debashish Mohanty did the same against England; and Javagal Srinath has been solid throughout, but there has always been a question mark hanging over their ability to dismiss sides sufficiently cheaply.
For New Zealand, the story is something of a mirror image. Led by left arm strike bowler Geoff Allott (a man who has taken this competition by storm with his record-breaking tally of nineteen wickets and who has exhibited maturity way beyond his level of international experience throughout its duration), bowling has been the team’s clear strength to date. Their batting, however, has been little short of woeful. Other than the form of surprise packet, Roger Twose, few players have achieved anywhere near their best; the sorry statistics of openers Nathan Astle and Matt Horne indicative of just how poorly their top order has fared.
As such, this is a match upon which the World Cup fates of two nations hinge and which holds great promise for the spectator. Both will be giving the game everything they possess in the knowledge that nothing short of victory is acceptable now. Whose skills, willpower and fortitude prevail - and which team it is that, for at least twenty-four hours anyway, wards off the unthinkable prospect of making an early exit from the tournament - we shall eagerly have to wait and see.
Why you should watch: Given how much hinges on this game, it should be a drama-charged occasion and, hopefully, should be balanced on a knife-edge throughout. It will also be the last time that you will be able to witness at least one of these sides participate in the Cup.
Players to watch - India: Rahul Dravid. Having generally displayed a contentedness to play more of an anchor role than those adopted by his more aggressive teammates such as Ganguly and Tendulkar, Dravid has been the backbone of the Indian batting throughout the Cup. The straightness of his bat, his tremendous poise and concentration, and his unwavering ability to find the gaps, have all made him one of the stars of the competition, and he should be able to afford us more of the same in this match.
New Zealand: Stephen Fleming. By his own lofty standards, this has been a disappointing tournament with the bat from the Kiwi captain to say the least. We did see him play one grand innings against Pakistan, but even that was in a losing cause. His natural elegance, capacity to drive powerfully through the arc between mid off and mid on, and to accelerate the scoring rate when required, normally make him a dangerous player for opposition sides to contain, and a magnificent batsman for observers to watch; he is due to play a great innings and it might well come here as he attempts to lead from the front.
Neutrals may care to enjoy: The Indian batting has remained a pleasure to watch throughout this event, and there should be no reason that this game will represent any change to that pattern. Watch also as Geoff Allott (who should again bowl with the great control and determination which have been the hallmarks of his play for the duration of this World Cup) tries to extend his run as the tournament’s leading wicket-taker.