Westpac Stadium, Wellington
February 6, Wednesday; 12:30 IST
Live on Star Sports, streaming on Hotstar
The main picture
The three-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series starting tomorrow might be lacking in context with the World Cup just round the corner, but it offers the batsmen from both teams a chance to play with more freedom after an ODI series that was dominated by the bowlers, and India and New Zealand will set out to achieve different objectives.
From India’s perspective, they don’t have a good head-to-head record in T20Is against New Zealand. India’s only bilateral T20I series win over New Zealand came when the Blackcaps toured India in late 2017. India won the three-match series 2-1 in what proved to be a farewell for Ashish Nehra. Those two wins remain India’s only wins against New Zealand in this format.
Despite India’s cramped schedule over the last month, their poor record in T20Is against New Zealand and wanting to improve it can be a motivation for players who will be mentally and physically fatigued, even if the momentum and feel-good factor are on their side. Rishabh Pant, Krunal Pandya and Siddarth Kaul are the players replacing Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami respectively in the T20I squad and are likely to play a major part in the series. This trio will bring fresh energy into the squad and provide the competition for places too, to keep the others on their toes.
New Zealand have a couple of new faces in their T20I squad, while Martin Guptill’s back injury has ruled him out of the entire series. When we talk about batsmen being able to play with more freedom, one of the batsmen who will welcome a change in the format is Colin Munro. He aggregated 70 runs in the ODI series and looked out of place in terms of pacing the innings and coping with the swing and seam movement generated by Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar with the new ball. Munro is an important player for the Blackcaps in this format and his performances will dictate the way this series plays out.
Doug Bracewell and Scott Kuggeleijn starred in New Zealand’s one-off T20I win over Sri Lanka last month and they will be key to changing the Blackcaps’ fortunes. Daryl Mitchell and Blair Tickner are the uncapped players in the squad, which they have come into on the back of strong performances for Northern Districts and Central Districts respectively.
Westpac Stadium pitch report and weather forecast
The pitch for the ODI was good to bat on after the initial phase when Trent Boult and Matt Henry got the ball to move in the air and off the surface to trouble the Indian batsmen. The relatively small boundary is likely to contribute to a high-scoring match.
The evening is forecast to be cold and breezy.
India vs New Zealand 1st T20I playing 11
Possible New Zealand playing XI: 1 Kane Williamson (c), 2 Colin Munro, 3 Ross Taylor, 4 Tim Seifert (wk), 5 James Neesham, 6 Daryl Mitchell, 7 Colin de Grandhomme/Mitchell Santner, 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Ish Sodhi, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Scott Kuggeleijn
Possible India playing XI: 1 Rohit Sharma (c), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Rishabh Pant, 4 MS Dhoni (wk), 5 Dinesh Karthik, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Khaleel Ahmed/Siddarth Kaul
For all the flair and versatility they possess, New Zealand must nullify the wicket-taking threat posed by Chahal and Kuldeep. The middle overs (7-15), therefore, is likely to be decisive.