MANCHESTER: New Zealand are at peace with their underdog status and are preparing for a “scrap” in Tuesday’s World Cup semi-final against India, coach Gary Stead and quick Lockie Ferguson said on Sunday.
New Zealand, the tournament runners-up last time, grabbed the last semi-final berth after a hat-trick of defeats nearly derailed their strong start in the tournament.
“I’m not spending a lot of time worrying about what other people are thinking, whether we should be here or not,” Stead told reporters at Old Trafford.
India topped the group stage with just one defeat while their match against New Zealand in Nottingham was washed out.
Stead said his team would walk out on Tuesday to prove their mettle against a strong Indian side.
“India are a quality team, there’s no doubt. They’ve got match-winners right throughout their lineup. I said right from the very start whoever we play, we going to have to be somewhere near our very best to beat.
“That’s the excitement, that’s the challenge in front of us. Hopefully you’ll see what Kiwis are made of out there as well, that ‘no-die’ attitude and I guess stand up when we need to.”
New Zealand will be bolstered by the return of their leading wicket-taker in the tournament with Ferguson recovering from a tightness in his hamstring.
The quick also felt the underdog status suited his side.
“I guess in World Cups obviously big games get pumped up and where we stand is the fourth going into the semi-finals so naturally I guess they back India,” Ferguson said.
“But as New Zealanders we are often the underdogs and I guess that’s a position we like to be in... it’s knockout cricket now so it’s all on Tuesday and the better team will go through.”
The right-arm paceman said the 2015 finalists had earned their place in the last four with some good cricket and were braced for another characteristic joust against India.
“We’ve played some good cricket to get to the point where we are in a position to play a semi-final and then it all counts on the day so were looking forward to the challenge for sure.
“As a team, we definitely want to be the scrappers and guys that scrap for wins and not always do we win pretty.
“We kind of pride ourselves on coming back from tough situations and scrap our way out of it and give ourselves an opportunity to win.”
On Tuesday, New Zealand will have to find a way to deal with Rohit Sharma, who smashed a record fifth century at this year’s tournament against Sri Lanka on Saturday.
“Yeah hes been exceptional,” Ferguson said of the India opener who is this tournament’s leading scorer.
“It’s hard to sort of get away from the media on Rohit and fair juice to him, he’s played on a lot of different wickets and scored some big runs.
“For sure we’re looking to do our scouting over the next few days and make sure we have a plan to sort of take him down as he’s been their top run scorer and obviously an important wicket to get early on.”
Ferguson insisted he would be fit to face India.
“There was definitely some tightness particularly the day before the game,” he said. “The scans came back, it was nothing too serious so a few days off. Hopefully I’ll get out today and have a run around and everything will be good.”
Stead is confident Ferguson will be fit in time.
“Absolutely, I expect Lockie to play,” Stead said. “If the last game was a semi-final or a final, we probably would have played Lockie so it was more a precautionary measure not to play him.
“He definitely had some hamstring tightness and he needed probably 48 hours just for that to settle down. He’s in good shape and, barring getting through the next couple of days, I expect Lockie to play.”
Stead, assessing the Auckland paceman’s impact at the tournament, said: “Lockie has been enormous for us.
“It is his first World Cup as well and I’ve just been delighted that every time he has come on to bowl, it looks like he’s going to make a difference out there.
“Whether that’s through pace, whether that’s through creating pressure for the person at the other end, he’s always been looking likely. Hopefully he can do that again against India on Tuesday.”
Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2019