Time for some Kiwi hunting

Time for some Kiwi hunting
Australia were expected to pose the biggest challenge for India when they visited the country for five ODIs and three T20Is recently. While the Aussies shared the honours with India in the shortest format after the final match was called off without a ball being bowled, they were outplayed by Virat Kohli and Co in the 50-over format with India wining the series 4-1.

Australia’s Trans-Tasman rivals, New Zealand, are here for the three-match ODI series now and while they are no pushovers by any stretch of imagination, the Kane Williamson-led side will find it hard to upstage the rampaging hosts who have won six ODI series in a row since their away 1-4 loss to Australia at the start of 2016.

This is the second visit to India by the Kiwis in the space of 12 months for an ODI series. Last year around the same time, they were involved in a five-match series following a three-match Test series. While New Zealand were walloped 3-0 in Tests, they gave a good account of themselves in ODIs keeping the series alive till the last match. How competitive will they be this time around remains to be seen but just three ODIs mean that a good start will be crucial.

India will once again be expected to begin on a right note when they lock horns with the tourists in the first match here on Sunday at the Wankhede which last hosted an ODI match in 2015 against South Africa. That match is remembered as much for AB de Villiers’ blitz (61-ball-119) as it is for the reported outbursts of Ravi Shastri, who was the director of the team then, at curator Sudhir Nayak for rolling out a belter of a pitch. Shastri has since returned as the head coach of the team while Wankhede now has a new curator and it will be interesting to see what kind of pitch will be on offer.

While it’s unlikely that pitch will be as flat as the one for the previous match when 662 runs were scored in 82 overs, it’s not going to be a bowlers’ paradise either. The Kiwi bowlers will have to pull off something special to stop the Indian batting whose quality and depth is rivalled by few teams at the moment.

New Zealand do possess quality bowlers in pacers Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Adam Milne and left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner but unless the surface has something to offer to them, they will find it hard to put brakes on Indian batsmen.
Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are sure to link up again at the top of the order followed by Virat Kohli. After that it’s just a guess work as to who walks in when among Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya. Such is the bench strength of this team that someone like Ajinkya Rahane, perhaps the most consistent Indian batsman in the two series he has batted, finds no place in the 11. Skipper Virat Kohli just fell short of saying that Rahane won’t figure in the side for the first match.

The bowling department too has usual suspects. While Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah will share the new ball with Pandya being the third seamer, wrist spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will complete the line-up. Jadhav too can chip in with his off-spinners if need be. The Kiwi batting has enough quality and experience in Indian conditions with proven record of skipper Kane Williamson and veteran Ross Taylor but they will need more than these two to be competitive against the hosts.

The squads: 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, 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, George Worker.
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