Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
October 22, Sunday; 13:30 IST
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The main picture
New Zealand are one of the two or three sides in world cricket who often flatter to deceive. The Kiwis have always tended to boast experience and dynamism in the batting and bowling departments—and historically been a good fielding side—but time and again they come unstuck in big tournaments and in foreign conditions. Like South Africa, they have not won a trophy of note for close to two decades now. But, while the Proteas enjoy success in bilateral series, the Blackcaps largely fail to do so too. Returning to duty after a four-month break, Kane Williamson and co. have a chance to rectify their failure to play to potential and also break their duck in India, where they have not won a bilateral ODI series in five attempts so far.
As aforementioned, their batting line-up for this limited-overs tour will not be short on experience. Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Ross Taylor, and Kane Williamson have been on the international circuit for a considerable time and are familiar with these conditions. In the bowling department, Tim Southee and Trent Boult are as dynamic and an experienced fast bowling pair as you can get. New Zealand’s chances of success here this time depend largely on the performances of this sextet. These six players along with Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi were part of the side who lost a five-ODI series 3-2 exactly a year ago. And though they will face a very different Indian side, they ought to make their experience count.
The visitors had at first named only nine players for this limited-overs tour of India, with the other spots being up for grabs for those in the A side who were in India playing unofficial Test and ODI matches against the India A side. Colin Munro (all-rounder), Henry Nicholls (top order batsman), George Worker (left-arm spinner), Glenn Phillips (wicketkeeper-batsman), Matt Henry (fast bowler), and Todd Astle (middle order batsman cum leg-spinner) were the six players who were named in the finalised New Zealand one-day squad. Astle suffered a groin strain during the first practice match against Board President’s XI and has been ruled out of this tour. Sodhi has replaced him.
From the visitors’ perspective, a lot has changed with the Indian limited-overs teams from 12 months ago. Their new captain has reversed the fortunes of the ODI team, in particular, while a much-coveted all-rounder is now part of the ranks, having made his ODI debut against the same opposition last October. Barring the disappointing loss to Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 Final, India have won each of their ODI bilateral series this year and are a confident and resourceful side. The middle order remains suspect and the team management and the selectors have yet to identify a reliable No. 4. Dinesh Karthik has replaced Lokesh Rahul in the ODI squad and is likely to bat at No. 4 in the first ODI this Sunday. Also among the changes is Shardul Thakur returning to the squad after being out of the same for the series against Australia. On the whole, though, Virat Kohli’s India should have a familiar and formidable look about them.
The first match of a three-ODI series is always important and needless to say, India and New Zealand don’t have the breathing space on Sunday. The pitch at the Wankhede Stadium is arguably the fastest in India and for the ODIs has generally been very good for batting. This will be the first One-Day International at this venue in two years, with a high-scoring affair in October 2015 between India and South Africa being the last. Clear skies and sunny weather is the forecast for Sunday, with the temperature predicted to hover around the 30-degree Celsius.
India vs New Zealand head to head in ODI
101 One-Day Internationals have been played between these two teams, with India winning 49 of those. The Blackcaps have won 43, one match has ended in a tie and the other eight have produced no results. 67 of these matches have taken place in India and the home team lead the head-to-head here too, by 39 to 22. Six matches have produced no results.
IND: WLWWW (last five ODIs, from left to right)
1st ODI: India vs New Zealand playing XI
India have struck a winning formula and unless they are looking to experiment, their playing XI and team composition (six batsmen with the wicketkeeper, one all-rounder and four specialist bowlers) are unlikely to be much different from the Australia series.
Probable India playing XI for the 1st ODI: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 Dinesh Karthik, 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, and 11 Jasprit Bumrah
After arriving in India, New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said that Latham will bat in the middle order and keep wickets as well being the most senior of the wicketkeepers in the squad. Therefore, one of the vacant slots at the top of the order will probably go to George Worker or Colin Munro. Ish Sodhi, who has replaced Todd Astle in the original squad, might play the first ODI.
Possible New Zealand playing 11: 1 Kane Williamson (c), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Colin Munro 4 Tom Latham (wk), 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Henry Nicholls, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Trent Boult, and 11 Ish Sodhi
India are familiar with the conditions, have a working combination for these pitch and weather conditions, have been in good form recently and man to man, boast the better personnel. So, they can be expected to make a winning start to this ODI series. The caveat, however, is, don’t count out the underdog.