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Yuvraj ready for second innings

Roshan Thyagarajan, Visakhapatnam, Sep 7, 2012, DHNS: 0:11 IST

India start firm favourites

Indian cricketer and cancer survivor Yuvraj Singh bats during a YouWeCan event for the Yuvraj Singh Cancer Foundation in New Delhi. AFP
Yuvraj Singh will be the one person on everyone’s mind when India take on New Zealand in the opening T20 International at the Dr YSR Reddy ACA-VDCA stadium here on Saturday.

Yuvraj’s last international assignment was the third Test against the West Indies at Kolkata in November, 2011, and the 30-year old Punjab left-hander has showed immense courage to battle against a germ cell cancer, returning to international cricket in less than a year.

If skipper MS Dhoni’s hints are to be read into, Yuvraj on the morrow will be playing his first T20 match in well over a year, the last one coming against South Africa in January 2011 at Durban. The gritty cricketer may or may not click against the Kiwis, but the will to fight that he has shown in times of a grave crisis is something the entire team can derive energy from against the Black Caps.

The other man everyone will look to fire is Virat Kohli. The 23-year-old Delhi batsman has been in the peak of his form over the past couple of years, and going by the pitch here, he will be more than glad to go out and have a knock.

Options for Dhoni

The return of Harbhajan Singh, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Piyush Chawla is also something that gives Dhoni options against their opponents, a dangerous proposition in the ultra-abridged version. But the emphasis will be on spinners. They have helped India blank the visitors in the Tests and they are expected to come good in this format too.

R Ashwin has rediscovered his form in the recently concluded Test series, and that will be a comforting factor for the Indians. In the pace department, Zaheer Khan continues to hound batsmen with his probing line and length, and throw in Irfan Pathan’s ability to move the ball in the air and Ashok Dinda’s pace, the Indian attack seems quite solid.

Dangerous outfit

From the visitors’ perspective, there is no dearth for hard-hitting, T20-oriented players. Almost every player in the team has been accustomed to conditions in sub-continent, courtesy the Indian Premier League, making them doubly dangerous – especially Brendon McCullum.

Daniel Vettori, who has returned from retirement to guide the Kiwis in the World T20, will have his eyes set on getting some game-time after recovering from a groin injury.

With an experienced spinner and a clutch of entertaining batsmen at his disposal, skipper Ross Taylor has a lot of options to choose from. Kiwis also hold statistical edge over India in this format, holding an impressive 3-0 record.

But can they put the Indians in a spot of bother and maintain that record or will the Indians score their maiden T20 win over the Kiwis? Only time will tell.

Squads (from): India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt, wk), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Laxmipathy Balaji, Ashok Dinda, Piyush Chawla, Manoj Tiwary.

New Zealand: Ross Taylor (capt), Brendon McCullum (wk), Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, James Franklin, Rob Nicol, Jacob Oram, Doug Bracewell, Daniel Vettori, Tim Southee, Adam Milne, Nathan McCullum, Ronnie Hira, Kyle Mills, BJ Watling.

Umpires: S Ravi, Sudhir Asnani. TV Umpire: Vineet Kulkarni. Fourth Umpire: C Shamshuddin. Match Referee: Chris Broad.

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