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CWC19: Semi-Final 1 Inda v NZ - The 3-Pronged Gameplan

It's fair to say that my brethren celebrated harder and louder as South Africa vanquished the Aussies, than we did as Team India made merry on the graveyard of joy that is currently masquerading as the Sri Lankan cricket team.

Our joy at watching the Aussies falter was not misguided - because if you did a secret ballot of Indian, English and Aussie players about who they would want to play in their semi-final, the unanimous answer from this poll would be New Zealand.

It's not that the Kiwis are lesser players or aren't good lads. It's just that some things in life are meant to be. Butter belongs on bread. Pink belongs on flamingos. New Zealand's cricketers belong in world cup semi-finals. No more. No less.

We live in strange times you see. The only reason I'm writing this right now is that I'm so anxious about tomorrow's game that I can't sleep. Not because one of us is sleeping in his India shirt and is sleeping on a bed so small that his legs are dangling off. The one sleeping next to him is halfway on the floor because the guy with long legs needs...a lot of room.

Then there's the other case where a king size bed isn't big enough for the smallest bloke among us. And what's with English hotels not being equipped with air conditioning - this is the Marriott for crying out loud - the purest symbol of American hospitality where air conditioners that could warm many globes are the first item on the specs sheet and oversized beds are next?!

I forgive you for concluding that I have no space to sleep and that's why I'm writing. This is not the case. I have my designated space. Everyone does in life. I'm writing because I bleed blue and I'm nervous about tomorrow's today's game and I consider it my duty to remind our Team India that this match-up with the Kiwis is a banana-skin game, because it's common knowledge that professional sportspersons don't read newspapers on the morning of a big match these days, they read blogs.

So if Team India are to maintain the natural order of life, here's what they must do to win (apart from scoring more runs and taking 10 wickets):

Play Ravi Jadeja

Fresh out of the ring with cricket's most cringeworthy commentator, our own Ravi Jadeja is on the warpath. It's time for Virat to harness and unleash this surd's pent-up frustration on the frail Kiwi batsmen.

Yuzi Chahal was rested for the last game so he'll definitely return, which means Kuldeep Yadav must make way. If you're used trotting out outdated cricketing norms you might complain about how both Jaddu and Yuzi spin the ball the same way. If this was you ask yourself, would you want two bazookas in your arsenal or a bazooka and a misfiring handgun?

Admittedly Jaddu's batting is about as useful as Khawaja's hamstring these days, but if those who bleed blue are known for anything, it's for holding out hope eternal for the return of past glories. But his fielding is still dynamite and Ravi would be proud of his "tracer bullet" arm.

Don't be afraid of chasing

Despite each cricket ground in England having a block the size of which could host an Olympic 400m relay, I don't understand why matches needed to be played on used pitches. Thankfully, wiser heads have prevailed and the semi-finals will be played on new decks.

This means two things:
  1. Nobody knows how these new pitches will play. Will they be built for flat-track bullies or will they two-paced like the Indian economy?
  2. The commonly agreed wisdom of bat first to win the world cup that has prevailed thus might well be as useful as useful as SanjuManju's "analysis" on TV.

You and I know for a fact that no team chases an ODI total like Team India in the last 8 years. Despite a weak middle order, we have enough firepower at the top and down below to chase any total, especially after we've been given the lead on how a pitch is playing. It is a strength and we should be confident of relying on when it comes to the crunch.

But it's been raining in Manchester over the last few hours and more rain is predicted for the match, which could turn this banana skin match into a real lottery. What would you do?

Who's our Piyush Chawla?

Mahi Bhai has single-handedly changed the meaning of the term "impact player" by using Piyush Chawla as a surprise "weapon" in both the 2008 ODI tri-series in Australia and the 2011 world cup final. So bamboozled were the Aussies and the Lankans by this most overrated of spinners that their batsmen were competing with each other about who could score the most dots when this bloke was bowling.

Unfortunately our growing list of infirmary visitors has meant that almost everyone who could've got a game during this world cup has got a game. Plus, with the 3D skils of Vijay Shankar back in Chennai and no other useless bowler in the squad to call upon, Virat's options are limited.

But there is one bloke. He was hitting the ball crisply in the nets over the last few days and nobody really knows any thing about him - especially not in ODI cricket. His breeding is unquestionable because he's just helped us do this down under for the first time ever.

Could Mayank Agarwal be the antidote to the number 4 plague that has gripped Team India over the last 12-18 months? Could Agarwal be Virat's Piyush?

PS. The smallest guy in our group is only 17 months old - in case you needed that context.

PPS. Mayank, as you choke on your Weetbix during breakfast over being compared to PC, I'm sorry. But you know what I mean, no?

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