Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men kick-start a crucial year in the Indian cricketing calendar with the tour of New Zealand in a week’s time. India’s tour of New Zealand acts as the perfect launchpad for Dhoni’s men to rectify their scandalous overseas form, by winning both the Test and one-day series in the kiwi land. Also, with the 50-over cricket world cup not more than 12 months away, this series can be used as a preparation for the multi-national ICC event, starting in February 2015. With that in mind, let’s have a look at five conspicuous commodities to look forward to from India’s perspective.
- Whether Dhoni experiments with the squad, keeping 2015 CWC in mind
Ever since Dhoni took over the reigns of captaincy, you wouldn’t have got to see much of a “team rotation policy”, irrespective of the significance of the series. Now, with the tour of New Zealand scheduled exactly 12 months prior to the CWC in 2015, will Dhoni take the gamble of giving the fringe players in the squad more game-time, and subsequently identify the right personnel, who could make it to Australia for the world cup?
If I was Dhoni, I would deploy the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Ishwar Pandey, Varun Aaron and Stuart Binny straight into the starting XI for the first ODI in Napier, rather than waiting 3-4 games to win the series, and then look to experiment.
Either way, it’s going to be intriguing to see what Dhoni makes of this series, and how he uses it to get a preview of the right team composition for the conditions that prevail in New Zealand, ahead of the world cup in 2015.
- New Zealand series is going to be a litmus test of Ashwin’s overseas bowling credentials
There’s no smidgen skepticism that Ashwin has found the going tough in his first two overseas tours of Australia and South Africa, up until this point in his career. He has struggled to bother the batsman, hasn’t got his lines right, for the kind of surfaces that have been on offer, and hasn’t done Dhoni any favor by not holding an end up, during the middle phase of an one-day innings.
He recently struggled in both the Test and ODI series against South Africa, which further compounded his overseas bowling credentials.
With the surfaces in New Zealand not expected to be largely different to what Ashwin encountered in South Africa, I for one, strongly believe that India’s tour of New Zealand is going to be THE TEST of Ashwin’s cricketing career so far.
- Totals of 400 & above in the One-Day Internationals cannot be discounted
All of India’s batsmen picked for the tour of New Zealand, go into the series with a gargantuan amount of runs under their belts in 2013. Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli scored more than 1000 individual runs in 2013, and will once again look to continue from where they left off.
More than the kind of batsmen Team India possesses, it’s the size of grounds in venues like Hamilton, where India play two ODIs, and Auckland that gets me drooling. In both Auckland and Hamilton, you are invariably going to get 55-60 meter boundaries at the maximum, and that is the primary reason why I wouldn’t dismiss totals of 400 & above achieved right throughout the ODI series.
But having said that, Indian bowlers also need to be diligent with how they operate, especially in the death overs, during which they have been clueless to keep the opposition batsmen quiet in the past decade or so.
- New Zealand’s chief coach, Mike Hesson has asked for “green tops” for the series against India
Well, talk about pitches isn’t something new for close Indian cricket followers, whenever Team India tours abroad.
If Mike Hesson’s request is indeed served, I don’t think Team India will be too fazed by seeing live grass on the surface, as it can only make the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohamed Shami, and Ishant Sharma that bit more potent.
After the kind of returns that Shami and Ishant Sharma enjoyed during the Test series in South Africa, they would yet again look forward to another series to grab good number of wickets.
- What really makes Ishwar Pandey’s name reverberate in the Indian cricketing fraternity?
Yes, that’s a massive question as far as Indian cricket followers are concerned, and we wouldn’t have to wait long to get an answer.
Ishwar Pandey, picked for the first time in India’s Test squad for the tour of New Zealand, is a promising talent, who bowls in the mid 130’s, and thrives on the kind of bounce he’s capable of generating.
Ishwar Pandey was also recognized for his talent by the former Australian bowling great, Glenn Mcgrath, when he was at the MRF pace foundation in Chennai as the fast-bowling coach.
At a period when Zaheer Khan hasn’t got a lot left in his career, and Ishant Sharma proving to be a liability in the 50-over format of the game, the situation is tailor-made for Ishwar Pandey to grab this opportunity gratefully, as and when he gets it.
Pulling the curtains
If the aforementioned list of factors is anything to go by, then, India’s tour of New Zealand is going to be yet another fascinating series to watch, but given the quality of cricket that New Zealand have exhibited over the last 5 years, I simply can’t see Dhoni’s men losing either the Test or one-day series, irrespective of the XI that takes the field in every respective game.