Cold winds of New Zealand have troubled the Indian cricket team like no one’s business. In eight tours India has won only one series. In the last ODI series in New Zealand India lost four matches and scored 300+ in only one match, which ended in a draw.
New Zealand, however, lost 2-3 to India in the ODI series in 2017. In every match they scored well but for the last match when Amit Mishra ran through the way Yuzvendra Chahal did in third ODI against Australia.
Reasons for India doing badly in New Zealand
Indian team has always struggled against the Black Caps in New Zealand as the grounds are small so spinners are not effective. In last series Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja hardly took wickets, due to which the hosts’ middle-order scored heavily. Similarly, as grounds are small the spinners can be hit for sixes and India is not able to contain run rate in middle overs.
Indian openers hit through the line but in New Zealand the ball swings, due to which India;s opening batsmen fall prey to the good pace attack of Black caps. The middle order of Kohli and MS Dhoni, it must be mentioned, have done well in New Zealand in comparison to the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.
India ODI Squad:
Virat Kohli(c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Siraj, K Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Shami, Vijay Shankar, Shubman Gill
New Zealand ODI Squad:
Kane Williamson(c), Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor
The team is a settled unit. Return of Martin Guptill and coming of age of Colin Munro has given a boost to their performance. Scores of 371, 319 and 364 in their last three ODIs against Sri lanka will put the fear of God in any team. Middle order has become very strong with the form of Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls. They stabilise the team in case of any early wickets. Williamson is definitely 75% of Virat Kohli and he can be a thorn.
Emergence of Jimmy Neesham as explosive all-rounder in the mold of Kapil Dev, Ian Botham etc. has given a depth to the team. Their bowling is ably supported by old war horses, Trent Boult and Tim Southee. The spinners are the weak link and I feel that in middle overs teams can score against New Zealand.
In the wake of victory against Australia in Australia, India is on Cloud nine and deservingly so. They have achieved what no other team could, winning in all formats. However, it is to be noted that Australia was not at its best. Three main bowlers were rested still it turned out to be an even contest. India consumed nearly 50 overs in chasing a paltry target of 231. It shows that Indian team is still not settled.
Their spearhead Jasprit Bumrah has been rested. Dhoni will play at four or five is still to be decided. Amabti Rayudu failed in last series of New Zealand so Kedar Jadhav is a certainty to play. So, Indian team is still settling down. They are missing Hardik Pandya, who could clear the small grounds in New Zealand with ease. In his absence, Jadeja has to play to bolster the middle order and due to that between Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, only one can play. Indian pace attack is a potent one and they can cause considerable damage to the over-attacking New Zealand Team.
India should be playing Dhoni at four, so that he can hold the innings. Further, Kohli needs a partner who can rotate strike. Now Chahal will be given a chance in the first ODI at the expense of Kuldeep, which is a pity. Jadeja played well as a batsman in 2013, so he will be part of team. Khaleel Ahmed should be given a chance as he can move the ball and he can create trouble for openers.
Kedar deserves his place due to his cool and composed innings while chasing. So, this order is good for a sub-300 score. However if the top three fire a century-partnership with a century from any of them then India can set up a great target or chase any score.
Opening partnership of Munro and Guptill has been instrumental in New Zealand’s mammoth totals in recent games. Batting is their strength and they can bat till number nine. Only Boult and Henry are bunny and can be prey to a decent bowler.
Their batting is, however, suspect against good pace attack, which was seen in their series against Pakistan. They cannot control runs in the middle phase and Sri Lanka could also score at great pace. Thisara Perera hit their bowlers to the task and all over the park. So, fortunes of New Zealand rest with Boult and Southee. If they split two or three wickets in their opening spell then they will embrace victory.
Verdict for the first three ODIs
Looking at the current form of New Zealand, they are going to score 300+ totals. This will be handful for Indians to chase, but not impossible. First three matches are kept at Napier and Bay Oval. Both are high scoring grounds. Reason is simple, they trust that the Indian middle-order will choke under pressure.
I do imagine that India’s top three, Shikhar, Rohit and Kohli will come good. So, it will be a great contest. The seaming conditions will test Indian batting lineup so I am rating New Zealand on a higher plane. In first three matches I expect them to win two.
This Indian team is on the path of rebuilding for World Cup. Maybe such reversals in fortune lead them to select right candidates like Rishabh Pant and Shubman Gill
My overall prediction is a 2-1 series win for the hosts.