Every game an opportunity to put the pieces together in time for the World Cup
It was hardly windy in windy Wellington on Thursday.
The Kiwis, though, have enough wind behind them to need no assistance from any of nature’s elements.
With the ANZ series already in the bag, Brendon McCullum’s men appear fired up to complete a 4-0 triumph here on Friday.
The battered Indians will look for a consolation win that could put skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and several of his men in a better frame of mind for the two-Test series.
And then, with the ICC World Cup looming next year in Australia and New Zealand, every game is an opportunity in itself to put the pieces together.
Despite New Zealand having pocketed the series, the fifth ODI is not without relevance.
The Indians practised at the iconic Basin Reserve ground with its old world charm and elegance. There is so much about this open venue flanked by mountains that reminds you of the game’s golden days from another era.
The match, however, will be held at the Westpac Stadium, another one of those huge modern concrete structures that can seat a lot more spectators.Upbeat mood
The mood in the Kiwi camp is predictably upbeat. The side has combined capably as a unit, maintained the levels of intensity right through.
There, however, were some fitness concerns for the host. Paceman Tim Southee, nursing a minor muscle strain, has been rested for the game.
And, influential all-rounder Corey Anderson is recovering from a niggle. Matt Henry, a 22-year-old seamer, has joined the side.
The pitch at Westpac is expected to produce a high-scoring duel, keeping with the theme of the series.
Irrespective of the nature of the surface, or whether a side bats first or second, good, consistent cricket with sound reading of situations is the path to victory. Here, the Indians have come up woefully short.
It would be interesting to see whether Virat Kohli continues to open. Dhoni made it clear after the last game that Kohli’s elevation was a short-term move.
In that case, it would do India little good to have Kohli surfacing again at the top of the order when he has settled so well into the No. 3 slot.
Will Shikhar Dhawan be re-inducted after the team-management sent out a message to the left-hander by omitting him from the previous game?
And if Stuart Binny is to play, Dhoni has to display greater confidence in his seam bowling. The all-rounder sent down just one over on his ODI debut.
With the pacemen lacking control and being taken apart for plenty, the think-tank can surely try out Ishwar Pandey.
He is tall, extracts bounce and bowls around the off-stump. He could, at least, instil a measure of discipline in the attack.
Meanwhile, Dhoni is just one short of 8,000 runs in ODIs. More than individual landmarks, it’s a team effort he would be looking for.
New Zealand has batted with solidity, enterprise and imagination and Kane Williamson has been a shining example.
The stylish right-hander has been a major stumbling block for India in the series with four successive half-centuries that laid a platform.
He has handled spin with footwork and decisiveness, held the innings together and built partnerships.
And Ross Taylor’s match-winning hundred in Hamilton underlined his ability. While he is a powerful striker of the ball, Taylor is also someone with soft hands and touch.
The Kiwi batting has found the right men at the right time. Even if the explosive Anderson does not play, the heavy-hitting James Neesham could clobber the bowling.
Such has been the nature of the series. Someone always puts his hand up for the Kiwis.
The teams (from):
India: M.S. Dhoni (capt.), R. Sharma, V. Kohli, A. Rayudu, A. Rahane, R. Ashwin, R. Jadeja, M. Shami, B. Kumar, S. Binny, I. Pandey, V. Aaron, S. Dhawan, S. Raina, A. Mishra and I. Sharma.
New Zealand: B. McCullum (capt.), M. Guptill, J. Ryder, R. Taylor, K. Williamson, L. Ronchi, C. Anderson, N. McCullum, M. McClenaghan, H. Bennett, J. Neesham, K. Mills and M. Henry.
Umpires: R. Tucker & B. Bowden; Third umpire: D. Walker; Match Referee: D. Boon.
Play starts at 6.30 a.m. (IST).