The 2021 ICC Men's T20 World Cup started on a horrible note for India with the Virat Kohli-led side going down by 10 wickets against their archrivals Pakistan. It was a heartbreaking loss for the Indian fans to digest as the men in blue had never lost to their neighbours in a World Cup encounter before that fateful day.
The loss against Pakistan not only pulled the curtains down on India's impeccable World Cup record against the men in green, but it also has made World Number 2 team's path to the semifinal daunting.
Having suffered an early loss in the tournament means that India cannot afford any more slipups if they are to end amongst the top two in their group and enter the final four of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup.
With Pakistan almost assured of a semifinal spot already with 3 wins in as many matches, India's clash against New Zealand virtually becomes a knockout contest.
Both India and New Zealand have played just one match so far in the tournament but have ended up against the wrong side of Pakistan, further increasing the stakes in this clash. All this assuming that both the teams will easily brush past the other three teams in the group – Afghanistan, Namibia and Scotland.
While the Kiwis would be more than happy to face India, the same cannot really be said about the Virat Kohli-led side. The men in blue do not really have happy memories of facing the Blackcaps in the World Cups.
India and New Zealand have encountered each other ten times across ODI and T20 World Cup, with the Indians winning only thrice – the last of which came way back during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. That was a time when the talks for a new T20 format had just started.
Cut to 18 years down the line, India has lost both the matches they have played against New Zealand in T20 World Cups – once in the inaugural edition in 2007 and then in the previous edition at their home in 2016.
Though both the teams have faced off only thrice in World Cups since 2003, India has ended on the wrong side on all three occasions.
Moreover, the Indians had lost the 2019 World Cup semifinals against the Kiwis while also losing out on the inaugural World Test Championships Final to the Kane Williamson-led side.
It is as if the Kiwis have become a thorn in the flesh for the Indians in recent times.
While history would not really matter when the teams take on each other tonight at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, the Indians are expected to face a stiff challenge from the Kiwis.
The Indian batting was exploited to its hilt during their loss against Pakistan, and the same cannot really be ruled out either. With the Indian top order's weakness against left-arm pace well documented, it might all rely on how the experienced trio of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli tackle Trent Boult.
Do not rule out Ish Sodhi as a threat either, who has dismissed the Indian captain twice in T20Is and is the leading wicket-taker in India-New Zealand T20I matches.
Sure an all-round performance is always a necessity, but if India are to break the New Zealand jinx a lot might ride on how the struggling Indian batsmen face Boult and Sodhi's eight overs.