HYDERABAD: A marauding India against a resilient New Zealand will make for an interesting tussle in the three-match ODI series, which starts with the first game at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium here on Wednesday.
Though the Indians were stretched a bit by the Sri Lankans in the T20I series, which the hosts won 2-1, the return of captain Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in the ODIs changed the equation as India made a blistering start to the year by annihilating the Lankans. The 317-run win in the last game in Thiruvananthapuram was the icing on the cake as India completed a dominating 3-0 win.
King Kohli, in particular, has begun the New Year with a bang, scoring two centuries in three games. With Shubman Gill too getting a century under his belt and his partnership with Rohit at the top coming good, the Indians have had little to worry about on the batting front.
The team management had come under severe criticism for benching Ishan Kishan, who had smashed a double century in his last ODI against Bangladesh last month. The 126-double century is the fastest ever in ODI history, but poor Kishan had to sit out as the team management opted for Gill.
With the other batters doing well, India didn’t miss Kishan’s services but with KL Rahul out of the series due to personal reasons, the Jharkhand stumper could be the first-choice wicketkeeper a head of KS Bharat. India skipper Rohit Sharma confirmed on the eve of the match that Kishan would play in the middle order.
“In terms of Ishan, he will be batting in the middle order and I am g lad that he will get a run here after that brilliant knock against Bangladesh,” Rohit said.
Iyer heads to NCA, Patidar in
Shreyas Iyer is out of the series with a back injury and the selectors have roped in Rajat Patidar in his place. According to the BCCI, he will now head to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) for further assessment and management of the injury.
Iyer’s absence means that Suryakumar Yadav will not have to worry about a spot in the playing XI. With Axar Patel too out of the series due to family reasons, Washington Sundar is likely to get a consistent run in the series. Bengal’s Shahbaz Ahmed has been included as Axar’s like-for-like replacement but Washington’s off-spin could be matched up with New Zealand’s left-hander heavy line-up that could include Devon Conway, Mark Chapman, Tom Latham, Michael Bracewell and Mitchell Santner.
Another toss-up will be between Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. If Chahal has not fully recovered from his shoulder complaint, then Kuldeep could start the series.
However, if the Chahal is fit then the team will have to make a tough call between the two wrist spinners.
All eyes will also be on pacer Mohammed Siraj, who will be playing his first international game on home ground.
The visitors, on the other hand, have come off a tough series against Pakistan. One could say that they have had a test of fire and done excellently. The 2-1 come-from-behind win in the ODI series was New Zealand’s first ODI series triumph in the subcontinent since defeating Bangladesh 2-1 in 2008. They also did well in the drawn two-match Test series. The Kiwis almost pulled off a win in the final game before the umpires called off play due to fading light.
However, coming to India without their mainstays – Kane Williamson and Tim Southee – presents the Kiwis with some new challenges to cope with. The Tom Latham-led side will have their hands full containing the Indian batters. New Zealand, who will be playing their first ODI at this ground, are the top-ranked side and the Indians are placed fourth. Can the hosts dethrone the Kiwis from the top?