The third ODI of the India-New Zealand series has a look of in-between-ness about it. Not just literally, as the midpoint of a five-match series, but also as a take-off point full of possibilities for both teams. One welcomes a new set of faces, the other celebrates a star player's recovery from injury.
India has made changes to its squad from the first two ODIs, and more will follow in the last two games. The resting of Suresh Raina will open up a slot for Saurabh Tiwary or Ravindra Jadeja, but it isn't certain where that will be in the batting order.
Chances are that Yusuf Pathan will be pushed up the order to number five in order to give him a longer bat in his first ODI at his hometown on Saturday.
“I haven't thought about it yet,” said skipper Gautam Gambhir ahead of his team's practice session on Friday. “It depends on the situation, how it goes, but yeah, obviously, he's a quality player and you want to give him that opportunity and all of us know how destructive he can be and how he can turn the game on its head.”
Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar have returned to the attack. For the former, coming back from injury, it is an opportunity to get matches under his belt before the South Africa tour. “He's missed the last Test match and he's missed the first two ODIs. Obviously, any bowling in international cricket is really useful for him,” said Gambhir.
“It's going to be good match practice for him before the South Africa tour, because we're not playing any (practice) games in South Africa, so these three one-dayers he can really use to his advantage and bowl well and take that confidence to South Africa.”
Both Zaheer and Praveen are likely to play, with the rested Sreesanth and either Ashish Nehra or Munaf Patel making way. Another option would be to give Vinay Kumar a go, considering that the Karnataka seamer has been retained for this game but not for the rest of the series.
Meanwhile, the New Zealanders will have been chuffed to watch Brendon McCullum bat at the nets on Friday. McCullum has recovered enough from his back spasms to be a near-certainty, but it isn't certain whether he is capable of both keeping wickets and opening the batting.
“It's definitely something we'll look at,” said skipper Daniel Vettori when asked if he might play as a specialist batsman. “Balancing the team is always difficult when Brendon offers so much with his keeping and opening the innings. We may even look at him batting down the order depending on his fitness so that his workload is not that high.”
Need to improve
Down 2-0 and stuck in a losing streak nine matches long, New Zealand needs to improve in all departments in order to reverse its fortunes. Vettori acknowledged this.
“I think you take each game as in isolation, so that you can prepare in the right way. Otherwise you can often get caught in previous losses.
“We really intend to win this game, but we know there are a lot of things to improve upon to beat India who are playing exceptionally well. They are one of the form teams in world cricket and we have to lift every aspect of the game.”
The small outfield at the Reliance Stadium could influence the game, and cause six-hitters like Yusuf Pathan, Tiwary and Yuvraj Singh to become pivotal.
“It's still bigger than the grounds we have in New Zealand, so we're not really concerned,” joked Vettori. But as at Jaipur, where he gave Nathan McCullum the new ball mindful of the onset of dew later in the innings, he might look at starting with a spinner again, to get through most of his quota before the middle-order power-hitters walk in.
“It was a spur of the moment (decision, at Jaipur). We saw how the wicket played when we batted and I think it worked well,” said Vettori. “We will look at it again and see how things go. The thing with the spin bowler opening is if it doesn't work you can always take him out of the attack.”
The teams (from): India: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Saurabh Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Wriddhiman Saha, R. Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Vinay Kumar.
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (captain), Brendon McCullum, Jamie How, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Scott Styris, Gareth Hopkins, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Andy McKay, Grant Elliott, James Franklin.
Umpires: Tarapore and Richard Kittlerbrough, Third umpire: Sanjay Hazare, Match referee: Roshan Mahanama.
Match starts at 9.30 a.m.
Keywords: India-NZ ODI series