After a week-long tussle between the minnows in the qualifying round, the coveted ICC World T20 tournament has reached the highly-awaited Super 10 stage where India and New Zealand are set to begin their campaign at the VCA stadium in Nagpur on 15 March.
India come into the tournament riding on a wave of success in the recent T20Is. The team shocked Australia in their own backyard, tamed the Lankan tigers at home and clinched the Asian crown in the build-up to the ICC mega event.
Despite enjoying a sensational run in the shortest version of the game lately, MS Dhoni's men will surely be wary of the competitive edge the Kiwis bring to their encounters, especially in T20Is where New Zealand boast of a formidable record against the Men in Blue.
Ranked fourth in the ICC T20 rankings, New Zealand are touted as one of the most dangerous and unpredictable side capable of producing an upset against stronger teams in the tournament. The team was at its prolific best during the 2015 World Cup, reaching the tournament final but eventually losing to their trans-Tasman rivals and co-hosts Australia.
The Kiwis head into the showpiece event on the back of impressive performances against Pakistan at home, where they won the T20I and ODI series convincingly. Though Brendon McCullum's absence is surely a big blow, the Kane Williamson-led team still boasts of potential match-winners.
As the two teams gear up for the pulsating encounter, here's a look at formidable New Zealand side that might come out on top in today's clash against tournament favourites India:
Potent pace attack
Kane Williamson-led New Zealand is one of the very few sides in the tournament that is bolstered with a threatening pace bowling attack - that has proved to be a nemesis for the Indian batsmen over the years. A glimpse of Indian batsmen's struggle was clearly visible during their Asia Cup clash against Pakistan where Mohammad Amir's spell almost won the game for his side.
The Indian batting order could witness a similar fate against the likes of in-form Trent Boult and experienced Tim Southee today. The two bowlers are more than capable of providing early breakthroughs to New Zealand while Adam Milne and Mitchell McCleneghan can also take the game away from the opposition.
Destructive batting line-up
If the pace bowling boosts New Zealand's chances, their destructive batting line-up in the shortest format only makes their case more compelling. Almost every batsmen in the Kiwis camp has the ability to clear the ropes and play a quickfire innings. With versatile Martin Guptill and dependable Kane Williamson at the top, New Zealand boast of an ideal opening pair.
Colin Munro, who recently struck a 14-ball 50, is in superb form which could be a cause of worry to the Indian bowlers. His last four T20I scores read: 36 (26), 50* (14), 56* (27) and 4 (3). Ross Taylor, who could miss out due to fitness issues, provides the much-needed stability to the batting order.
In Corey Anderson, New Zealand boast of their trump card. The left-hander is capable of hammering the ball under pressure and will be crucial in the middle overs. Luke Ronchi and Mitchell Santner can provide the much-needed push in final overs.
Ever since the retirement of the great Daniel Vettori, New Zealand has been trying to fill the void left behind by the spin maestro. The Kiwis have somehow found solace in Nathan McCullum over the years. The older brother of Brendon McCullum might not possess Vettori's skills, but he has been around long enough to perform to the best of his abilities.
On the slow Indian wickets, McCullum will be eager to make full use of his experience to trouble the opposition batsmen. Apart from McCullum, young Ish Sodhi adds some much-needed variety to their spin attack. Also, Mitchell Santner has proved handy with his tight left-arm spin. The three spinners, if played together, might turn the game on their side against India today.
Apart from a strong team composition, New Zealand also have history in their favour. The Kiwis enjoy a flawless record against India in the shortest version of the game. The two cricket giants have locked horns in five T20Is so far, wherein the Kiwis have managed to come out on top on four occassions.
The Indian cricket team is yet to beat New Zealand in T20Is after one of their five encounters ended with no result due to weather conditions. The Indian team will be wary of their track record against New Zealand who would be eager to upset the hosts today.
New Zealand squad
Kane Williamson (c), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Adam Milne, Mitchell McClenaghan, Colin Munro, Nathan McCullum, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi (wk), Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.