After having a stupendous home season, India have boarded to New Zealand for a long tour. During this tour, Virat Kohli’s men will play five T20Is, three ODIs and a couple of Test matches. India are set to commence their campaign against the Blackcaps from 24 January at Auckland. The hectic schedule which is spread across 41 days will finish on 04 March.
The selection committee of the BCCI announced the Indian squad, the day before yesterday. The all-rounder Hardik Pandya was unavailable again. The surprise addition to this squad was Prithvi Shaw as a reserve opener, in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan. India selected Shubman Gill during the last tour of New Zealand. After two games in Blue Jersey, Gill didn’t get an opportunity to play in the senior team.
Mayank Agarwal was called in the World Cup as a replacement of Vijay Shankar, and featured in India’s squad even after the mega event. However, he didn’t get a chance to don the Indian jersey. Now, the Mumbaikar Prithvi Shaw is called up for the national team. This highlights the inconsistency in the selection process of India. The rest of the squad is the same as the previous squad.
The standout strength of the Indian squad is their sublime bowling attack. During India’s last tour of New Zealand, the Indian bowlers restricted the Blackcaps under 250 in each of the five ODIs. And, Jasprit Bumrah was not playing for India in that series. The return of India’s ace pacer makes their bowling attack even stronger.
Mohammed Shami is in good form, Bumrah is getting his rhythm back after injury and Navdeep Saini has been learning quickly. Thus, the pacers should do well. Shami has a scintillating record in New Zealand and will look to do damage with the new cherry, particularly in the favourable conditions. The leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has a great record in New Zealand, and India should have him in their playing XI.
The top-order is a major strength of India, especially Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma who are the backbone of the Indian batting unit. KL Rahul is in an excellent form and will be high on confidence. It will be interesting to see if KL Rahul bats in the middle-order or opens the inning. Shreyas Iyer has performed decently in the ODIs so far.
One thing which has disturbed India in the past few years is their fragile middle-order. And, the middle-order issues might push India in troubled waters again. Who could forget the fourth ODI at Hamilton between the same sides last year? India were bundled out for mere 92 runs as Trent Boult and company ran through India’s batting order.
The absence of Hardik Pandya weakens middle-order of India even more. Whilst Iyer has shown promise, his game against pace is still susceptible. And, how will he fare in the bowling friendly conditions when the ball moves? – is unknown. Thus, the middle-order batsmen of India might be tested against the Kane Williamson-led side.
The chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav boasts of a great record in the Kiwi land but isn’t in the best of his forms. Ravindra Jadeja who has been a regular feature in India’s ODI XI for quite some time is having a good time. However, he has a substandard record in New Zealand as mentioned in the graphic previously. Thus, the spin attack might be a concern for the visitors.
The main aim of the Indian team management will be to build the T20 side because of the T20 World Cup 2020 in view. However, this ODI leg will be important for young players like Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur and Prithvi Shaw. The speedster Saini would be looking to come up with impressive performances again, and nail down his spot in the Indian squad. The right-arm pacer can be useful for India as an enforcer in the middle overs and is progressing in the death overs as well.
The youngster Shaw who has been given a spot in the Indian squad is in fine form. He scored 150 runs off just 100 balls in the second One Day warm-up game against New Zealand XI. If KL Rahul bats in the middle-order, Shaw will open the inning. If that happens, the 20-year-old attacking batsman will have a chance to stamp his authority. However, he will be facing a high-quality attack of the senior team of New Zealand in the ODI series.
If selected in the playing XI, the wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant will also have the opportunity to showcase his skills. All the spinners – Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja will look to impress the team management. As mentioned earlier, the left-arm orthodox spinner doesn’t fare well in the Kiwi land and will try to better his numbers. Chahal who has been out of the Indian XI for a while will look to perform well and secure his place in the playing XI.
In 2019, New Zealand won three matches against India in the 50-over format. The first in the bilateral series (fourth ODI) at Hamilton, the second was the practice match in the World Cup and the third was the World Cup semi-final. One thing which was common in all those games – the Kiwi bowlers got the wickets of the Indian top-order cheaply and did not allow the middle-order batsmen to make a comeback. This is the biggest threat for the Men in Blue against the Blackcaps, particularly in New Zealand.
When the bowlers find the swing in the air and seam movement from the deck, they become very hard to face. And, Kohli and Co. should be beware of that. However, the availability of Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry is unknown for the ODI series. The reason behind the unavailability of these pacers is injury issues – due to which they are also missing the T20 series.
Rohit Sharma, the opening batsman has poor numbers against New Zealand by his standards. The reason is Rohit struggles when the ball does a bit, especially against the in-swinging deliveries. The 32-year-old faces the new ball, and the Kiwi pacers particularly Boult use the new ball very well. Thus, the vice-captain of India has a big challenge to face and will look to improve his record in the Kiwi land, especially after his phenomenal form of 2019.
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