India, New Zealand may try out different combinations

The problem of plenty: India has several options to play around with against New Zealand.

The problem of plenty: India has several options to play around with against New Zealand.  

The teams will look to find balance in build-up towards the 2019 World Cup

Had it not been for the simmering political ties between India and Pakistan and its fallout on the cricket calendar, Kane Williamson’s Kiwi crusaders wouldn’t have boarded a flight to India for their second limited overs series in 12 months.

According to the international calendar, India was supposed to host its arch-rival for a full series in November-December. But such is the nature of the business of sport that once the series had to be shelved, to live up to the commitment to the host broadcaster, the BCCI invited New Zealand for a limited overs series and Sri Lanka across all formats.

It’s no wonder, then, that in an age where bilateral cricket is struggling for context, yet another virtually meaningless series will be thrust on the fans. However, with the numero uno status that Indian cricket still enjoys despite the emergence of a few other sports as business properties, there’s no dearth to dig out context ahead of the series-opening ODI between India and New Zealand, to be played at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday.

Let’s start with the statisticians’ delight. India and New Zealand have faced off in 98 ODIs so far, including 32 on Indian soil. However, the two teams will square off for the first time against each other at the Wankhede Stadium in the 50-over format. Besides, India has won its last six bilateral ODI series and Virat Kohli’s cavaliers will be keen to maintain a clean slate in the three-match series.

The last time Wankhede hosted an ODI, as much as it was made a memorable evening by A.B. de Villiers’ heroics with the bat, it will also be remembered for Ravi Shastri’s — then director of India’s team — outburst against pitch curator Sudhir Naik, the former Test opener, for handing over a flat deck.

Since then, Naik may have passed on the official curator’s baton to Ramesh Mhamunkar, preferring to only oversee the preparations. As Shastri returns to his alma mater as India head coach, both him and Naik would be hoping for a pitch that would contradict its recent reputation of being a batsmen’s paradise.

An otherwise meaningless series offers yet another opportunity for both India and New Zealand to try out different combinations in the build-up towards the 2019 World Cup. The Kiwis have decided to add zing to their top order by deciding to promote hard-hitter Colin Munro to open the batting with Martin Guptil. As a result, specialist opener Tom Latham will move down the order, adding depth to a largely-inexperienced batting order.

India, on the other hand, continues to deal with the problem of plenty. Shikhar Dhawan’s availability after missing the ODI leg against Australia owing to a medical emergency in the family will mean Ajinkya Rahane will have to serve drinks despite scoring four fifties in his last four ODIs. It would be surprising if Kohli fields its highly successful spin triumvirate of Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel, considering the short boundaries and the likely impact of dew in the latter half of the game.

The No. 4 conundrum continues to haunt India. To solve the puzzle, Dinesh Karthik may have earned yet another recall, but it would be interesting to see if the Tamil Nadu batsman actually gets a place in the team.

The teams (from):

India: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma (vice-capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Shardul Thakur.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, and George Worker.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 5:42:20 PM |

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