New Zealand goes into Saturday’s showdown with India at the Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy VDCA-ACA Stadium with an impeccable 3-0 record in the sport’s shortest format. In the host’s favour, it has won every one-day international at this ground.
Home side skipper M.S. Dhoni didn’t seem too perturbed about the past as he fielded questions on the eve of the first ever T20 contest at this venue. “My first big innings was here,” he began with a smile, in reference to what became a launch-pad to a spiralling career.
Known to be a featherbed, where it can be tough to stem the flow of runs, ‘captain cool’ differed on the pitch: “the wicket looks good, with the ball coming on to the bat while offering something for the bowlers too.”
“Each game is important,” he said of the impending face-off. “We hope to get into the groove for the World T20 and look to field the best side here.”
On what lay in store for the morrow, he said that a game plan was in place but the side wasn’t thinking too much about the opposition.
“Yuvraj should be playing,” he said, while urging everyone to make it as normal as possible for him. “He is a strong character but the burden can be on the individual,” Dhoni pointed out. “Yuvraj has been joyful, come back strong and has been enjoying the game.”
The nets session was supplemented with football and mixed business with pleasure. Yuvraj, in mock respect, massaged Harbhajan’s feet and the ‘Turbanator’ bestowed his blessings. The latter even looked serious while his compatriot couldn’t contain his glee, the episode readily lapped up by the photographers.
On differing ages in the team, Dhoni said performance would ultimately count. The slightly more experienced would look to cement their place in the side, not just in the T20 format but also hope to advance to the ODI and Tests as well.
Dhoni’s counterpart Ross Taylor looked at his squad’s clean record a shade more realistically. “All those three wins were recorded outside India,” he said, suggesting it could be an altogether different ball game on the sub-continent’s strips. In home conditions, India was a team hard to beat, he felt.
“(Jacob) Oram and (Daniel) Vettori are pretty experienced with these and that would help,” said Taylor, adding later that with increased participation in the Indian Premier League, more New Zealanders were getting more familiar. “It has a flip side too in that the Indians know our game better,” he said.
Putting behind him the burden of two back-to-back defeats in the recent Test series, he said his boys looked forward to more ‘white-ball cricket. “We’ll try different combinations, not to experiment but to rest some of our players,” he countered when asked if their best side would be fielded.
Welcoming Yuvraj’s return, he said cricket would be played hard on the pitch but off it, it was all quite friendly. “It’s good to see him back and a great achievement,” he said of the all-rounder’s comeback.
Spotlight on Kohli
If Twenty20 is mostly about one or two game-changing displays, Virat Kohli, with two hundreds on the trot at this venue, could take centre-stage again. The Kiwi triumvirate of Taylor, Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill would also look to revel in the runs too.
For most of Friday, the sun was at its fiery best, despite forecasts of rain or thundershowers. The ground, awash in green, appeared the gracious host, offering a near-perfect stage for a run-fest, if not a pulsating contest.
The teams (from):
New Zealand: Ross Taylor (capt.), Doug Bracewell, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Roneel Hira, Rob Nicol, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, Jacob Oram, Tim Southee, Daniel Vettori, B.J. Watling and Kane Williamson.
India: M.S. Dhoni (capt.), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Munaf Patel, R. Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, L. Balaji, Ashok Dinda, Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh and Manoj Tiwari.
Umpires: S. Ravi and Sudhir Asnani. Third umpire: Vineet Kulkarni.
Hours of play: 7 p.m. to 8.20 p.m. (first session) and 8.40 p.m. onwards (second session).