The aggressive hosts eye a 2-0 lead
The Kiwis often punch above their weight in cricket. They did that at McLean Park the other day as the world’s top-ranked ODI side was humbled.
The Indians have a reputation and a ranking to protect. If Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men finish at the wrong end of the second ODI here on Wednesday to go 2-0 down, it will be extremely hard for the visitors to come back in the five-match series.
And if India does not win the series, it will lose its No. 1 ranking. Quite simply, plenty is at stake.
It rained here on Tuesday and more showers have been forecast for Wednesday. The dynamics of the contest will change if the overs are reduced.
The cloud cover will assist the pacemen. The conditions could make things tougher for India against an adversary with belief.
New Zealand, a country of under five million people, goes about its business with pride and aggression. ‘Fight’ is the key word.
It was short-pitched bowling, controlled hitting, and some outstanding catching that won the Kiwis the first ODI.
New Zealand, though, will be without exciting paceman Adam Milne, who has been ruled out for six weeks because of an abdominal muscle injury.
Bennett for Milne
The 26-year-old Hamish Bennett from Canterbury — he has played a lone Test and 12 ODIs — will take Milne’s place.
Milne will be missed. His influence cannot be judged in numbers. When someone bowls around 150 kmph in the middle overs, it puts the batsmen under considerable stress to preserve wickets just when they are seeking to accelerate.
The lanky Bennett is a lively paceman, who hustles the batsmen while Kyle Mills brings with him experience. The Kiwis have to take a call.
The Indians desperately need a start from the openers. Rohit Sharma looked out of sorts at Napier and Shikhar Dhawan requires the confidence of a big score behind him.
As Dhoni pointed out, the contributions from No. 4 and 5 have been disappointing. Too much hinges on the mercurial Virat Kohli and Dhoni.
Ambati Rayudu, who plays the horizontal shots capably, deserves an opportunity at some point if the incumbents repeat failures.
The Indians require a collective batting effort. And they will have to come to grips with the short-pitched stuff.
The pitch at Seddon Park is considered slower than the one in Napier. It has also assisted spin this season. Consequently, India might continue with two spinners.
But then, Ravindra Jadeja and R. Ashwin have to beat the batsmen in the air and seek to pick up wickets. If New Zealand is allowed to consolidate against the spinners in the middle-overs, India could be in trouble.
While Mohammed Shami has impressed among the pacemen, Ishant Sharma needs to look carefully over his shoulder.
For the Kiwis, Corey Anderson is running hot. This southpaw, unmindful of reputations, is a clean striker of the ball.
In bowling, Mitchell McClenaghan is a definite factor in the end overs with his variations. He is also someone who hits the deck.
The Kiwis played cleverly at Napier with Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor anchoring the innings before Brendon McCullum, Luke Ronchi and Anderson upped the tempo.
Again, planning and execution is the hallmark of Kiwi cricket.
The squads: (from): India: M.S. Dhoni (Capt.), S. Dhawan, R. Sharma, V. Kohli, S. Raina, A. Rahane, R. Jadeja, R. Ashwin, M. Shami, I. Sharma, B. Kumar, V. Aaron, S. Binny, I. Pandey, A. Mishra, A. Rayudu.
New Zealand : B. McCullum (Capt.), M. Guptill, J. Ryder, R. Taylor, K. Williamson, L. Ronchi, C. Anderson, N. McCullum, M. McClenaghan, T. Southee, H. Bennett, J. Neesham, K. Mills.
Umpires: R. Tucker & C. Gaffaney; Third umpire: G. Baxter. Match Referee: D. Boon
Play starts at 6.30 a.m. (IST).