Sunday, August 30, 2015

Enterprise Loyalty for banks and financial services – Part 2

I strongly believe Loyalty should be more than just point calculation and gift redemption. Banks should use Loyalty to give a fair deal to their customers. This in turn can deliver on capturing share of the wallet and increasing stickiness.

A loyalty program should allow banks to establish a 360 degree view of their customers, by looking holistically across multiple dimensions – Customer relationship value, relationship tenure, product ownership and usage, desired channel behaviour. In fact, loyalty programs should allow a blend of customer’s demographics, banking behaviour, needs to deliver on loyalty. This should be a program which uses products, channels, and customer demographics as a mix to achieve holistic rewards program success.

Such a holistic loyalty program will use a harmonious combination of various “customer attributes” like – customer segment, age, lifetime value, credit rating, demographics, etc; and, “account attributes” like – account type, balances, currency, etc; along with “product attributes” like – product type, frequency of product used, no of products taken, etc, and, “transaction attributes” like – transaction channel, location of transaction, time of transaction, etc. This combination will assign rewards for a desirable behaviour and no rewards (or even deduct) for an undesirable behaviour.

These rewards can ideally be accumulated and used against benefits which can be broadly classified as – financial or lifestyle rewards (monetary or non-monetary, as mentioned in my previous post). A lifestyle reward can be anything from – gifts from a catalogue, movie tickets, gift vouchers, lounge access, etc. And a financial reward can be cash back, fee waivers, discounts, special price plans, higher free limits, etc.

Loyalty program would also give flexibility to accumulate rewards on multiple grounds. Banks can reward their customers contextually on events, transactions, even lifecycle. One should expect capability to reward for customer birthdays, anniversaries, new year, festivals, etc. These events can potentially lead to more sales and transactions. Banks may also want to reward their customer for relationship anniversary, or may be a new product subscription. Such a holistic program also drives customer experience.

Given the market around us these days, the banks can go all out and develop relationships across multiple lifestyle franchises to deepen their redemption catalogue. These can be Jewellery, Hotels, coffee shops, Air Miles, restaurants, gym membership, lounges, club membership, etc. All such redemption options not only gives customers options to choose from, it also strengthens the loyalty program and goes a long way in creating a strong brand value.

To add to this, a holistic rewards program should allow for points adjustment, points transfer, points aggregation, points acceleration and even points expiry. This is something that again adds to the depth of the loyalty program and drives customer experience again.

A loyalty program should also give banks flexibility to run partner or merchant loyalty program as well. This should be run as usual customer loyalty scheme for a single partner or merchant. These schemes can be run as multiple tariff schemes for revenue share or commissions. Banks can even reward their merchants to do more transactions with you.

Another use of a holistic rewards program can be using it for Sweepstakes or Raffle draws for customers. This again goes a long way in building the customer relationship and stickiness.

All in all, a holistic rewards program should enable banks to get close to their customers and align the entire organisation around the mission of enhancing overall customer experience. It should bring in competitive advantage, improve operational efficiency, and enhance overall revenues and overall drive up overall customer satisfaction.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Enterprise Loyalty for Banks and Financial Services - Part 1

When we speak of loyalty and loyalty points, most of us today would know what I mean. Not only that, one is quickly reminded of a credit card and a POS machine J Traditionally for banks, loyalty was synonymous with credit cards and vice-versa. As end consumers of credit card facilities, we always associated a credit card with the loyalty points and benefits that it would bring. And we were or even today happy using such loyalty points against some gifts or merchandise or voucher, etc.
Keeping the omnipresence of credit cards and their loyalty points away for moment, let’s understand what loyalty is and why one needs it.

Literally speaking, “Loyalty” would mean, “being loyal to someone” and hence, continuing the relationship. Well, banking relationships are all monetary and not so much by conscience. And with the ever growing competition, how does one make sure, their customers are loyal to them and stick to them and continue to do and bring in business day in and day out for long-long years? Well, that is where you need a holistic rewards solution which can help you meet your objectives. You give a monetary or a non-monetary benefit as a reward for being loyal and drive desirable customer behaviour in tandem.

Not only this, with growing financial literacy among customers and ability of customers to consummate easy and real-time information over social media, they also think holistically across their banking relationships. They also think that they should be rewarded appropriately for the overall relationship and not just credit cards.

All such market and customer driven behaviour dictate a need for a holistic loyalty program for a bank. Such a program should definitely cut across all the banking products and services (including credit cards) and help the bank achieve their key broad objectives from their loyalty program.
Using a loyalty program, typically, one would want to “Reduce churn” by retaining the existing customer base and help wade through the competition. One would also want to “Increase revenue” by increased use of products and services and increase share of wallet and support cross-selling. And overall, one would surely want to “Attract new customers” by an attractive referral program and incentivised marketing program to aid direct walk-ins.

A loyalty program would have 3 basic tenets around which it will revolve – Transact – Transact and capture all the transactions that a customer would do; Earn – Earn loyalty benefits or loyalty points based on the nature of the transaction; and Transaction more & Redeem – Transact more and increase your earnings and then use these earnings or burn these earnings or redeem your earnings against certain set of benefits, both financial and non-financial.

A loyalty program would also give you a chance to drive a desirable customer behaviour and test and create opportunities. Let’s take simple customer behaviour, say, “purchase of a new product”, to understand this. A typical “call to action” could be – “Buy Product X and receive Y points”. By such a call to action, you are driving your customers to buy that product. You are enticing them to gain those loyalty benefits by purchasing the product. This not only gives a chance to generate more revenue by sale of a new product, but, also gives a chance to deepen the relationship and increase share of the wallet. Let’s look at similar such scenarios.

Another key desirable customer behaviour is “increase in spending” and you may ask your customers – “Spend X with us within this week and receive Y rewards”. This is a very common strategy to increase spending. At times, banks use it to increase credit card transaction volumes over a short period of time. This gives an opportunity to increase average spending and have a psychological edge, where the customer feels related to the bank. On the similar lines, if you use such a strategy over a longer period of time, it has a potential to change the customer behaviour and further deepen the relationships. It also helps reward long-term relationships, which in turn creates more brand value.

Such a holistic loyalty program can also help banks drive their customers towards low cost channels like internet or mobile banking or ATMs. All that banks need to do is add channel of transaction as a parameter to drive rewards or even disincentive undesirable behaviour. Banks adopting such a strategy have been fairly successful in achieving their objective to move away customers from costly channels and allow them to self serve.

To increase volumes and create recurring sales, banks usually would entice their customers to transact a specific number of times in a specific time period. They would usually say – “Do A of X in Y time to get Z rewards”.  Such strategies can help drive products like bill payments or fund transfers. There are many such strategies which can be adopted to drive desirable customer behaviour and achieve other objectives from a loyalty program.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

OROP - is NaMo that foolish?

One Rank One Pension (OROP) has been taking media and political stage for a while in India. It was a sort of clarion call from Narendra Modi (NaMo) during last year's General Elections, where, he committed to OROP and confirmed its application, as the leading PM candidate.

However, its been more than a year - barring a few mentions of commitment towards OROP by PM Modi, Defence Minister Parrikar and a slew of other central ministers, there has been no public confirmation of any sorts which can placate the protesting ex-Armed forces personnel.

There have been many views and arguments on its financial implications and economic sense, especially the fiscal burden on the Central Govtt. Read an article, which said, for all the forces included, at best this could be in the range of INR 25,000 crores. And half of which is already addressed by plugging the LPG subsidy leakage. So 50% is already there, rest can easily be addressed by plugging many such subsidy leakages that the Modi govtt anyway intends to go after aggressively. This surely makes a strong case for its implementation.

Well, the other important aspects would be the long term fiscal effect and challenges that it will bring in, atleast for say next 5-10 years at a minimum and what happens after this demand is met (these protests are now making is like a big demand). How will other forces and govtt departments react to it? They are already rumoured to sit on the periphery and look at the current drama. This will likely snowball into a bigger problem and will be politically fanned as well. How does NaMo handle it?

Now on the current protests, there are reports that these are being politically managed. Knowing that is difficult to be practically implemented and NaMo having committed to it, all political parties are using it as a good canvas to paint their sympathy and empathy picture. Some reports also say that a sr. ex-army officer, close to the grand old party of India was parachuted to lead these protests by RaGa.

Knowing NaMo, he understands the political problems that it can bring in and also the possible political benefits he can reap, he wouldn't ideally let it go thus far. Based on back of the envelope estimates, this currently affects 25-30 million people and NaMo is too sensible a politician to ignore or not understand what does that mean.

My personal sense is that had there not been some serious internal tangles and / or issues with it, it would have been announced by now. Given the media fancy to get to the bottom of everything pertaining NaMo, even they have not been able to figure out the real problem in there. Even the protesting ex-servicemen, after multiple meetings, haven't disclosed anything so far.

There was a rumour that OROP might be announced by NaMo on his Independence Day speech. Which, ofcourse didn't happen. And pat came a tweet from the CM of Delhi - PM should announce OROP on Aug 15. Everyone wants to bake their bread while the flame is strong ;) And ofcourse, the brickbats are for NaMo anyway. And not to mention Congress and others, already playing political games, knowing very well that they have nothing to loose here. NaMo is sitting on a political hot potato, which will hurt him more than taking them far ;)

No one until now knows if it will implemented or not. Or by when it will be implemented. May be, what might be useful for NaMo would be to come out and address everyone on OROP and give a full clean statement on where it is and possibly its timeline for implementation. And most importantly, why its being delayed.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Nathan's dilemma

Nathan worked with his team and got the proposal ready. Well, submitting a proposal during a formal tender process is a different ball game, where you submit a lot of hard copies and a lot more. However, this one was a bit different, as the prospect wanted Nathan to make the submission in soft copy over email. One may think that to be an easy game. However, it comes with its own challenges. Preparing the soft copy proposal was easy for Nathan, as he was writing it in MS word and then saving it in pdf file, all looked easy. All was ready, he sent it to his manager to review and approve.

And then came the biggest dilemma so far in Nathan’s career. His bossed tossed a question so pertinent that he felt for long confused with the response he made. Given that the proposal was to be submitted in soft copy over email, the dilemma was whether to submit it in this fashion or not. Soft format, gives you ease, however, it opens up possible problems due to blatant sharing of such emails across the organisation and probable leakages of sensitive techno-commercial information. You don’t usually know who will lay their hands on such emails and information and when all these eventually come into the public domain.

All these were very logical questions and doubts and they came to Nathan’s mind, only when his boss asked him – should we share such information on email and risk it becoming a public property? They even discussed doing the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), for which they didn't really have time, hence, doesn't work now. Nathan thought for a moment and replied that we as a vendor now and a partner in future should believe in our potential customer and give them the benefit of the doubt and take this risk. Not that submitting in person was not an option, it was always open and Nathan could have easily travelled to the prospect’s office and submitted the proposal in person. But then, Nathan’s idea was not only to showcase their belief in the prospect and her process but also give them the confidence that they are ready to abide by their process. He said that if we cannot believe in our customer, then, how can they believe in us? Nathan’s boss really liked it and agreed to move ahead and submit the proposal on email.

Though Nathan made the decision and his boss also agreed to it...but deep inside, he was quite confused. Confused, because this could potentially create more market problems, where their sensitive information changes hands just like that. He was scared too, as it was his belief in doing so, which his boss too agreed to, and if their fears come true, he lands himself in potentially bigger soup. All such thoughts kept going through his mind. He thought again and decided in favour of his previous decision. And believed if something bad happens, he will stick to his decision. And will fight, if the need arose. Nathan finally and rightfully submitted the proposal...on email :)

What lay ahead was a series of discussions and calls with the prospect on the proposal and days full of anxiety, as Nathan wanted to seek ‘real feedback’ from the prospect. After a few days post submission, he called up his point of contact at the customer’s place and sought feedback. He was told that it’s under review and with the sr. management to consider. He also sought some competition related information, as he learnt that there are 2 more vendors who submitted their proposals – one incumbent and one, a new like Nathan.

Nathan discussed this feedback with his boss and learnt that this may not be the real feedback and there might be something cropping up behind the scenes that we are not privy of and may not learn that ever. He understood that all this is not because they are against us and don’t want to share this information, but, because that’s how things will always be. To gather such information, we need to develop some good relationships and good connects who can always share such information with you on and off. And you need at least 2-3 such connects, so that you can gather more information and cross check each other, to be sure.

This was sooner than later becoming a much needed learning for Nathan, as after a few more days he learnt that the incumbent vendor has been asked to review his proposal, as the evaluation team felt the need to do so. That was quite baffling, to say the least, as at least Nathan was sure, he wasn't asked to review his proposal. His mind was full of a few more doubts – why would anyone do that? Probably, they want his to match my proposal or may be even better it. Or the third one was the best and the incumbent has been asked to review it. Sounded a bit confusing, but, in sales, anything is possible. Nathan had heard stories of people being smug about the deal getting through, while, the competition enjoying a luxury resort and signed the contract, and the former is not even aware. These were stories which were heard of and in sales folklore, such stories were aplenty. But, this time, Nathan was experiencing such things all by himself.

Here was a situation where Nathan thought he had worked up the relationship and connects quite fast and he stood a fair chance to give a tough fight. But suddenly, he is met with a situation which he hadn’t experienced thus far and was a bit stuck on how to get more information and validate this piece. He decided to travel to the customer place, stay there for a few days and try and meet more people to access more information. He discussed with his boss and they agreed and off went in search of more information...or probably learning the ropes of enterprise sales.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nathan’s tryst with Enterprise solution sales

Nathan is trying hard to break the shackles and get through with his first deal in some time. He gets a lead for a solution where his organisation is not a very strong player; in fact, they are one of the many solution providers in the market. To make it even worse, they are late in the game and the competition has already got their set pieces in place. Nevertheless, Nathan throws his hat in the middle and wants to give it a shot.

The opportunity is qualified as there is a sure shot need for the solution. The prospect is eagerly evaluating the vendors and Nathan carries a solution that should fit in the prospect’s needs. Now he tries to sort out his pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, called Sales process and its requirements. On one hand, Nathan is aware; their story for that solution is not great, even though, their solution meets the prospects needs and requirements. On the other, his relationship in the account is still at its infancy. 2 basic ingredients for the sales process were weak as Nathan decided to get into the game.

To overcome these challenges, Nathan decided to stay in the prospect’s place, spend some quality time with them. This would not only give him a chance to build rapport with the prospect, but also allow him to get hold of so much quality information. Be it, key requirements from the solution to competitive landscape to the prospect’s thought process and views on Nathan, his solution and his company, and last but not the least the list of key decision makers, all were the gold mine of information that would help Nathan in his sales pursuit.

Now came the hardest part. As Nathan decided to stay put and continue his struggle, he tried to meet up with some relevant folks at the prospect’s organisation. He called them up, sent some emails, requesting to catch up at their office or for a cup of coffee nearby. But nothing materialised. Each time he called, either they would say they are busy or they have nothing much or new to share. His quest to gather information that could help in the pursuit was going nowhere.

Nathan was completely disheartened. His idea of staying back to get the relationship going was not working at all. To a typical sales guy, he got all the more doubtful of this whole engagement. There were questions in his mind, all of a different nature. Is this selection stage managed and there is a vendor who is already selected (at least unofficially)? Do they not like us? What is the problem? What hinders their willingness (or not?) to meet me? Where is the problem? Questions were many, but answers none. 2 days had already gone by and nothing really had happened. To make matters worse, Nathan’s response to the prospect’s requirements in terms of a proposal has to go out in a few days time. This lack of time compounded the problems around him.

Nathan continued his struggle against the indifferent behaviour of the prospect. And finally, on the 4th day of being continuously bombarded by calls and emails, the mid management guy from the prospect agreed to oblige Nathan. They met over a cup of coffee and Nathan got going. They spent close to an hour together and Nathan made notes as he spoke. At the end of it, Nathan was a happy man and could figure out some pieces of the jigsaw puzzle he was trying to solve. A more confident Nathan came out of the coffee shop.

Better armed, Nathan called up his team and shared the information. They decided to use that information in their proposal and draft their responses accordingly. The proposal was to go out in 5 days. Nathan and team started to work on the proposal. And meanwhile, Nathan continued his push to meet more people from the prospect’s side. To his good luck, he could meet another important person the next day. After being able to gloss over some important information over the last 2 days, Nathan decided to go back to his place and get the proposal ready.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Team India we are proud of you!! We will be there with you, always!!

Well, the title of this post would have set the record straight; however, I want to put in a disclaimer, right at the start. The thoughts are abound in my mind, however, they all still say the same – Team India, I am proud of you! I am really happy at the way you fought during the CWC15 and will continue to cheer you and myself the moment you land on the ground in India colours.

When we started the CWC15, no one gave India an iota of chance to reach the Semis, leave alone the fascinating things they did on the way (may be for some, beating Pakistan was a given ).

Well, I always believed Team India would do good, but not the way they did. Topping the Pool looked difficult for sure, when you have supremely talented South Africa and ever unpredictable Pakistan for company.

Let’s talk about some pre-CWC form, while Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane had an excellent Australian summer with some exquisite innings in tests, they struggled to carry the same form into the triangular ODI series just before the CWC. And to add to this misery, none of the other batsmen had a good time in Australia, be it the tests or the ODIs. Everyone believed in the Indian batting line-up for their talent always. However, the real problem for MS Dhoni was his bowling ammunition. His strike bowlers were neither able to hunt wickets nor able to control the run flow. And then, his key strike bowler (whom he has always believed in), R. Ashwin, seemed to have lost faith in his own abilities and struggled in most of the matches he played in Australia until the CWC.

With this baggage and poor pre-CWC form, it does look tremendous how Team India had performed throughout the CWC15. Scoring back-to-back 300+ scores against the Pakistani and South African attack was as equally worthy as taking wickets regularly all throughout, until the Semis. Taking all wickets on offer continuously for 7 matches took everyone by a pleasant surprise and made the 7-0 score line possible that we die-hard Team India fans would always cherish.

As a fan, I can’t comment on what made this turnaround happen. Was it some mental coaching? Or Was it playing so long in Australia that worked to India’s advantage? Or was it playing in the CWC that lifted the game of Team India suddenly? I don’t have an answer. Experts, ex-players, all may have their own reasoning behind this resurgence and performance in the CWC...but for a fan, I was so happy to see those performances coming through and always proud of those wins! Here, I must give credit to the team management (MS Dhoni, Ravi Shastri, Duncan Fletcher) and selectors (more to the team management), for believing in the team they had and taking them to the CWC, in spite of their poor form. One may say, thats the best they had...but they still believed in them. It’s so easy to react and change when the chips are down.

I don’t remember an Indian match during this CWC, which I didn’t watch throughout, or I didn’t have fun tweeting or commenting about on Facebook. It was my team which was performing and it was them and me having fun alike. For my team, it was fun giving those performances and winning, and for me, it was fun for me enjoying those performances on the TV and social media alike. It all worked like a charm. Oh it went to the extent, that my friends started making fun of me, for my such regular tweets and hashtags (some called me hashtag Gandhi ). Guys, I enjoyed every bit of it :)

The question now is to each one of you, who call themselves, the followers of, fans of Team India and those who were so proud of their team reaching the Semis of CWC15 – what suddenly changed with one match that we lost, that led to the outrage that we have seen over the last few days? Yes, we lost, but we lost to the better team. Yes, that ended our CWC15 journey, but it would end for all but 1 team anyway. Just that, ours ended a few days earlier. Its sports, and one wins and the other loses.

The other day, when Pakistan lost to us, there was equally bad outrage by Pakistan fans in Pakistan. There was media coverage and reports of people burning Pakistan players’ effigies and thrashing their TV sets. And we Indian laughed at them, made fun (at least on social media) at such foolishness. Some of us also criticised such behaviour. And now, we are doing the same thing to our own team. I am sure; there would be many a Pakistani who would be laughing at our expense. Well, leave that for a moment, thats their problem.

Team India needs support of its fans. We fans need them equally too. This is some sort of a symbiotic relationship that we have. Team needs their fans to support them always, pep them to perform better. And fans need their teams’ performances which they can cherish and at times, also have some fun amongst themselves on social media, like I and many of my ilk had during the CWC15. It is this time, they need us the most, and we must do the needful.

As a fan, I am at pains reading news articles which say security has been beefed up outside MS Dhoni's house or Rohit Sharma's house or for that matter, social media's toast (or roast, since that sounds familiar to many :)) since he played that fateful pull shot to Mitchel Johnson, Virat Kohli. We as a society should introscept, should reflect upon ourselves and see, is this we want to give back to our team who fights, not for themselves, but for ourselves, for our country.

All said and done, we lost to a better team on the 26th. Look at the way they batted all through out, especially in the last 7-8 overs. Those, Faulkner shots, Johnshon cameo made the difference in the first innings. Not only that, the way they bowled, just superb. Some of the best death bowling one would ever see, and when the rules of the game are simply not in your favour. None of our middle over batsmen were able to get singles, let alone score freely. It feels bad to lose and more so to the Aussies in a CWC Semis, however, we lost to a better team. And overall, we should be proud of the Team India's, our team's performance all throughout CWC15.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Are the best 4 in the semis?

Are the 4 semi finalists the best teams in the CWC15? If you look on paper and at pre-tournament form, probably Not. In fact, there would have been many eyebrows raised if someone would have predicted India to be amongst the Top 4. Though, 2 of the world’s best batsmen ever, predicted this list of Top 4.

Now, looking at the performance of the teams in the CWC15 so far, these 4 are by far the best teams. Very predictable and more or less consistent performances from them and no wonder, the batsmen and bowlers from these teams are holding the top few slots in all the statistics charts for the CWC15. Even some of the best catches are from these teams only. How can one forget the acrobatic Baz at the boundary or Rilee Rossouw and AB catching some beauties, or MS Dhoni taking a diving catch behind the stumps or may be the excellent slip catching by the Aussies.

While, South Africa was the first team to reach the Semis, they have been a bit off-shade when put under pressure. Consider the India match, when, their bowlers were taken to task and their batsmen were made to chase 300+. Or their match against Pakistan, where up against a quality bowling attack, chasing a modest total, they lost the game. Take Amla, and AB out of the equation, their batting line-up looks easy to get. They can buckle down under continuous pressure. They have a bowling unit, who can win you matches from nowhere. And their fielding always adds 20-30 additional runs.

India was the second team to partner South Africa in the Semis line-up. No one would have given India a chance for CWC15 before the world cup – all because of their woeful form. Famed batting line-up was not cracking at all and Virat Kohli who was in a purple patch in the Aussie Test series, suddenly lost touch in the Triangular ODI series against Australia and England. And then, their bowling, everyone lambasted them right, left and centre. But cometh the CWC and cometh the best performances from this team. They have hunted in packs. All batsmen have scored and scored together. All bowlers have bowled superbly and again together. They have gotten 70 wickets from 7 matches and none of their bowlers have ripped through the opposition. All have gelled together to hunt down the opposition. And to top it all with some brilliant ground fielding and catching, India are on a roll, with 7 out of 7 in CWC15. Their biggest problem still is their bowling. Can this bowling attack taken on the Aussie juggernaut?

Aussies, are one of the per-tournament favourites and they have lived to that billing so far. They have produced, some ruthless performances, except against their Trans-Taman rivals, New Zealand. That game was anybody’s and the lucky one scraped through. Their batting had not really clicked big thus far, especially, they top 2. Though, Aron Finch and David Warner have a century each in CWC15, however, they haven’t done anything worthwhile by their lofty standards. Its been mostly the middle order and the last middle order which has worked for them beautifully. Their bowling attack is excellent, which has worked marvellously for them so far, with Mitchel Starc at the top of the ladder for CWC15 with 18 wickets so far. Other bowlers have been contributing regularly too. The only problem they might face, especially at SCG is the lack of a quality spinner. So far, they have worked with Glenn Maxwell, who is not a regular bowler. Their attack looks one dimensional in that sense and much would depend upon the pitch for the March 26th game.

The New Zealanders are also having a ball. Unusual pre-tournament favourites, and not being the dark horse like during the previous CWCs, the Kiwis have played some good cricket. But I believe, they can also falter under pressure, as was visible during their match against Australia. Other than that match, they have not really been tested too so far in the CWC15. Whats been working from them are the starts that Baz has been able to give them. And with Williamson also in excellent form, they marched past during the initial league phase. And then Guptill rose to the occasion and scored a century and a double century in the QF. Their bowling has been too good, with Boult and Southee knocking everyone over. And Daniel Vettori has been magnificent as always.

In the first semi-final between New Zealand and South Africa at the smallish Eden Park at Auckland, it will be fun to see how the Kiwi bowlers who have been fabulous so far in CWC15 rise up to the challenge posed by AB and Hashim Amla. And how the arguably the best bowler in the world, Dale Steyn work against the Baz onslaught. For me the result of these duels will decide how this match progresses. And of course, how they handle such pressure. For NZ, it should be to apply continuous pressure at all times, as the team from the Rainbow nation is known to not handle pressure well.

The second semi-final between the hot favourites and home team Australia and team with the momentum, India should be a spectacle to watch. A lot will depend on how the laid in pitch behaves at the marvellous SCG. Already, there are calls for a local team supportive pitch suited for fast bowlers. Traditionally, SCG pitch supports spin bowling and let’s see how the curator acts on the 26th. It is a 50-50 game, with Aussies having a slight advantage due to home conditions and a lethal bowling team. A lot will also depend on how Indian new ball bowlers handle the attacking Warner and co upfront. I believe it has to be the same approach, as so far, for Indian bowlers in the CWC15 –take wickets regularly. And the same approach for the batsmen – don’t give too many wickets at the start, settle down and one batsmen out of the top 3 should bat through. For Australia, it should be the same too, else, this match can go out of your hands anytime. India has a great momentum by their side. Let’s see a full house on Thursday.

For me, this CWC dominated by the batsmen, with so many 300+ scores, 400+ 6s hit and 2 double centuries already, the fate of the semi-finals and then the finals will be decided by the bowlers. And that’s the irony of the CWC15. Or may be that says it all – sports is a great leveller. There will always be a balance somewhere and that’s so interesting and heartening to see.

All in all, a stupendous semi-final line-up, which should live up to the expectations of the fans. Crunch times for equals. From here on, it’s only about performing on that day. Who handles and manages the pressure of the CWC semi-final will come out trumps. And may the best teams win.