McLean Park, Napier
January 23, Wednesday; 07.30 IST
Live on Star Sports, streaming on Hotstar
The main picture
In the years gone by, you wouldn’t have been able to say that facing New Zealand is a bigger challenge than Australia. The reality, however, is that Australia, but for their pedigree of being a five-time world champion, are the sixth-best ODI team in world cricket, while England, India and New Zealand (ranked first, second and third respectively) are among the more formidable outfits. And the rankings, in this case, are a fair reflection of how these four teams have fared in ODI cricket in the last 18 months.
You can point to New Zealand’s home ODI series loss at home to England last February and most recently, to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and ask, are they a bigger challenge for India despite being the home team? But a quick look at the squad will tell you that New Zealand will be playing with their first-choice personnel and, from Kane Williamson to Ish Sodhi, the Blackcaps are a more balanced, cohesive unit than Australia.
Aaron Finch’s poor form and technical deficiencies meant India were able to pick an early wicket through the one-day series against Australia, who were conservative in the second powerplay (overs 11 to 40) and Glenn Maxwell, batting at No. 7, walked into situations from where he couldn’t help push for bigger totals. For New Zealand, though, Martin Guptill and Colin Munro can be explosive at the top of the order and really set the tone for Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Tom Latham to consolidate the innings during the middle phase. James Neesham was excellent with the bat and with the ball against Sri Lanka, but a hamstring injury has ruled him out of the series. The Blackcaps will miss Neesham’s all-round ability, but Colin de Grandhomme and Doug Bracewell are capable of being the No. 7, who can bat and bowl.
The only real negative for India from the 2-1 ODI series win over Australia was the failure of Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Siraj to fulfill the role of a third seamer. And, in the absence of Hardik Pandya, unless India include Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in the playing XI, with Ravindra Jadeja as the all-rounder, New Zealand can exploit the lack of a fifth bowler in the Indian bowling attack, even considering that Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav shared the fifth bowler’s responsibility quite well in the final ODI against Australia and Jadhav is likely to play ahead of Ambati Rayudu against New Zealand.
Also from India’s perspective, Shikhar Dhawan had an ordinary series against Australia and Virat Kohli, barring the match-winning 104 in the second ODI, wasn’t quite at his imperious best with the bat. Even keeping with MS Dhoni’s great start to 2019 with the bat, India will hope that the top three of Rohit Sharma, Dhawan and Kohli have a good series. The batting-friendly conditions in New Zealand are likely to help this trio’s cause.
McLean Park pitch report and weather forecast
Only two ODIs were scheduled to be played at this venue in the last four years after the last World Cup, but those two matches were abandoned without a ball being bowled. The teams, therefore, will have little information about the pitch. The ground is squarer in shape, making the straighter boundaries really longer and the square boundaries relatively short.
The forecast says that Wednesday (January 23) will be clear and sunny with a maximum of 28 degree Celsius.
India vs New Zealand 1st ODI playing 11
Possible New Zealand playing XI: 1 Kane Williamson (c), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Colin Munro, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Tom Latham (wk), 6 Henry Nicholls, 7 Colin de Grandhomme/Mitchell Santner, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Lockie Ferguson, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Ish Sodhi
Possible India playing 11: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 MS Dhoni (wk), 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Vijay Shankar, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Kuldeep Yadav
The battles up front between the Indian new-ball bowlers and the New Zealand top order and vice-versa are likely to hold the key. New Zealand have no major weakness, while India must address their team combination with only 10 matches left before the World Cup.