Confident India seek maiden T20I series win in NZ

‘India’ is no longer just a name in the cricketing world, it is a force. The young yet game-ready Men in Blue have excelled in all aspects of the game. The recent history of the sport tells a glorious tale of Team India, of the heights they have touched and the high standards they have set in the process.

India’s record in limited overs particularly stands out, having suffered only one 50-overs series defeat out of the five they have played since 2018. In T20 internationals too, the team has performed exceedingly well, showing how they can be a fast and destructive unit to meet the demands of the format.

Their counterparts, New Zealand, on the other hand, are in the middle of a see-saw patch. After a commanding display against Sri Lanka, the Blackcaps’ purple patch was tainted by a vibrant blue, resulting in the 1-4 loss against India. Nonetheless, as seen in the past, the potent Kiwis are not a side one can write off completely.

As the teams meet in the opener of the three-match T20I series on February 6, here’s a look into how they could be lined up at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

From the Indian dugout:

In a T20 game where a team hardly gets time to settle in, the confidence from the ODI series will certainly give the visitors a mental edge. The momentum will help the strong batting unit of India, led by the seasoned opening duo of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.

The Indian skipper is also just 36 runs shy of becoming the all-time leading run-getter in T20Is

The Hitman-led Indian side could have various batting options to play with as dynamic youngsters like Shubman Gill and Rishabh Pant find their names in the squad list. While MS Dhoni will be the first choice ‘keeper, India could have a decision to make between Pant and Dinesh Karthik — both of whom are very capable to find a place in XI as specialist batsmen.

Kedar Jadhav has done fairly everything. From scoring quick runs to rolling his arm over, Jadhav has been a valuable asset for the team in the 50-over format.

Krunal Pandya will be a contender for a place in the playing XI too, with his Man of the Match winning figures of 4/36 in the third T20I against Australia making a strong case for him.

Meanwhile, younger brother Hardik will have a cemented spot, banking on his all-round contribution to the side in the last two ODIs.

The bowling unit will see a drastic change of personnel. In the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, doors will open for Khaleel Ahmed and Siddarth Kaul. With Westpac’s record of aiding swing bowlers, India could play three pacers; keeping only one of the two options of specialist spinner – Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.

From the New Zealand dugout:

The prolonged back injury of Martin Guptill will come as a setback for the Blackcaps as the opener will be rested. The absence of the leading run-scorer in T20Is will leave a big void in the Kiwi XI. The job of partnering Colin Munro could be taken up by Kane Williamson or Tim Seifert, their ‘keeper batsman, who will join the T20I side.

The slump in Williamson’s form is an issue that needs rectification at the earliest, from the Kiwi point of view. Numbers suggest that the skipper opening for the Blackcaps has worked best for both parties, as he averages 38.52 when compared to his 31.64 otherwise.

The presence of Jimmy Neesham will be key for the hosts. His ability to get wickets and score runs has time and again come handy for the Blackcaps. That he has found his form after recovering from an injury, scoring a 32-ball 44 in the fifth ODI, is good news for the team.

Without their swing master, Trent Boult, the likes of Tim Southee, Doug Bracewell and Lockie Ferguson will need to shoulder the bowling department collectively. The swing force will like to continue causing India the troubles that Boult and Matt Henry caused in the latter half of the ODI series.

The encounter at the Westpac will be an enticing one as India, who have lost only one of their 12 T20Is under the leadership of Rohit, will be keen on continuing the streak against the hosts. The match starts at 12:30 PM IST on February 6.