New Zealand misery all in the past for India's Rohit as semi-final looms

India's Rohit Sharma with head coach Rahul Dravid during practice session ahead of World Cup semi-final against New Zealand

India captain Rohit Sharma insisted his side's record of big game defeats by New Zealand was "all in the past" as they prepared to face the Black Caps in a World Cup semi-final.

Tournament hosts India head into Wednesday's showpiece match at opening batsman Rohit's Wankhede Stadium home ground as the outstanding side of the 10-tem event, having won all nine of their round-robin games to qualify for the knockout phase in style.

But four years ago a team featuring several of the same players, including Rohit and star batsman Virat Kohli, were members of an India side that suffered an agonising 18-run defeat by New Zealand in a rain-affected World Cup semi-final spanning two days in Manchester.

New Zealand also defeated India in the inaugural 2021 World Test Championship final.

The Wankhede was the venue when India defeated Sri Lanka in a 2011 final to win their second World Cup title following a 1983 triumph in England under captain Kapil Dev.

The build-up to Wednesday's game has seen much speculation about whether Rohit's men can join those celebrated teams as World Cup champions of whether New Zealand, who gave India a run for their money before going down by four wickets in pool play, will prove their downfall once again.

New Zealand's Kane Williamson during practice ahead of thire semi-final clash against India at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai on 14 November, 2023

Rohit, however, insisted his focus was firmly on the here and now.
"That's the beauty of this team," he told a pre-match press conference on Tuesday.

"None of the guys were born when we won our first World Cup and then, when we won our second World Cup in 2011, half of the guys were not even playing the game."

He added: "This current crop of players is very much into what is happening today, what can happen tomorrow...The focus is on how they can get better as a player, what they can bring to the team and the things they can improve."

'Mandatory pressure'

Rohit said while a semi-final was a high pressure situation, his side were always under intense scrutiny in cricket-crazy India.

"If you are an Indian cricketer, then whatever the format, whatever the tournament, there is always pressure. Because you hear the same voice from everywhere that we have to win the match tomorrow...So, I think in terms of pressure, it becomes mandatory for Indian cricketers.

"There is pressure, but we have tried so hard in all these years to keep that aside and focus more on our game, strategy, and the way we play," he added.

Cricket fans fly kites decorated with pictures of Indian cricketers and the ICC Cricket World Cup trophy in Amritsar on November 14, 2023

Before this World Cup, Rohit spoke about having "unfinished business", with the 36-year-old saying Wednesday: "Now it's just about business, the pure business of getting the job done for the team."

Kohli, who now needs just one more century to surpass the record of 49 one-day international hundreds he shares with former India team-mate Sachin Tendulkar, is this tournament's leading batsman with 594 runs -- and Rohit is not far behind on 503.

India also boast a formidable fast-bowling line-up in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami, and two fine spinners in Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.

But Rohit said he was well aware of the threat posed by New Zealand, beaten finalists at the last two World Cups.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson is coming into form after injury and the Black Caps' attack will be led by experienced left-arm fast bowler Trent Boult.

"They are probably the most disciplined team, they play their cricket very smartly, they understand the opposition very well," said Rohit.