Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi
November 1, Wednesday; 19:00 IST
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The main picture
At a time when the Indian cricket team continue to make history—Virat Kohli and co., by winning the ODI series against New Zealand, have now won seven consecutive ODI series, eclipsing the record set by the Indian teams of the 2000s (6)—you cannot help but feel that winning a Twenty20 International against the Blackcaps after five failures (one of the six overall meetings hasn’t produced a result), is just a matter of when and not if. Barring a two-match T20I series in 2009, these two teams will have never played a complete series until Wednesday. And though you can never say with any degree of certainty if this Indian team will come up trumps against an always dangerous and dynamic New Zealand T20 side, they are without a doubt well-placed to break the duck against the Kiwis.
Kane Williamson’s men were simply brilliant in the One-Day International series. And Virat Kohli credited them for pushing the home team all the way: “New Zealand challenged us in all three games and forced us to play our best in every game.” The likes of Colin Munro and Colin de Grandhomme, who are more suited to the Twenty20 format, showed during the one-day series just how dangerous they can be and needless to say, will feel more at home starting Wednesday. The Kiwis are arguably the most balanced T20I team too, with wicket-taking bowlers and big-hitting batsmen in their ranks. Being a good fielding side also will help matters. The potent bowling attack, in particular, comprising Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Adam Milne, makes the visitors more dangerous and formidable.
The Indian T20 squad has a handful of changes, with Shreyas Iyer, Mohammed Siraj, Ashish Nehra, and Lokesh Rahul replacing Kedar Jadhav, Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur. What also needs mentioning is that the 1st T20 will be Nehra’s last international match, having announced his retirement just before the conclusion of the three-T20I series against Australia. This left-arm pacer’s possible inclusion is likely to change the complexion of the team. Whether India register their first Twenty20 victory against the Kiwis and potentially win the upcoming series will depend largely on how the top three of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli fare. The Ranchi T20I against Australia, who had Jason Behrendorff providing them with the missing spark until this point, proved to us that if the Indian top order fails, then you can keep them to a score of less than 150 because of the lack of firepower in the middle order.
Wednesday’s match will be India’s first T20I at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. The Kotla pitch is among the unpredictable ones in the country, with it varying from being really slow, non-conducive for stroke-play and spinner-friendly to being a good pitch for batting. This ground has a smaller boundary, so high-scoring matches are not unheard of. But we need to see if the pitch has even pace and bounce or their opposite. The weather forecast says that Wednesday should be sunny, with a high of 32 degree Celsius and a low of 18 degree Celsius.
IND: NRLWWL (last five T20 Internationals, from left to right)
1st T20: India vs New Zealand playing XI
When asked about Nehra being given a farewell match which is being held at his home ground, MSK Prasad, the chairman of the national selection committee, stressed that the team management along with the selector on call will make a decision and didn’t give an assurance on Nehra being picked in the Indian playing XI. Other than this selection call, India also have to choose one from Iyer and the returning Rahul to replace Jadhav in the middle order. If Nehra does make the XI, then he will replace one of the two pacers (Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah) or Hardik Pandya.
Possible Indian playing 11 for 1st T20: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Shreyas Iyer, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, and 11 Ashish Nehra
Ross Taylor, who wasn’t part of the New Zealand T20 squad, has been recalled because of an injury to Todd Astle, who was named in the original squad. Therefore, chances are that Taylor will keep his place in the line-up and Glenn Phillips, who boasts a proud record (he averages 34.3 with the bat in this format and his highest score is 116*, might continue to be out.
Probable New Zealand playing XI: 1 Kane Williamson (c), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Colin Munro, 4 Tom Latham (wk), 5 Glenn Phillips (wk)/Ross Taylor, 6 Henry Nicholls, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Adam Milne, and 11 Trent Boult
The likely New Zealand playing XI for the first T20I was updated at 19:05 IST on October 31, with the news of Taylor’s addition to the T20 squad.
Team India can look a really good side if their top three batsmen fire and help the team post a challenging total. The problem arises when two of them have an off-day, early wickets are lost and the middle order fails to render solidity. This Indian bowling attack has tended to perform well on eight out of ten occasions, meaning the onus is on the batsmen to not falter.
The key, underlining battle is the one between India’s top three batsmen and the New Zealand bowlers. Whoever wins this decisive battle, will lead their team to a victory.