India face NZ in a must-win encounter

The New Zealand-India series has seen the latter procure a comfortable ODI series win, where their domination did not once suggest the Kiwi side was the third best ODI team in the world. It has become a fact well-known that the Men in Blue on their day, which tends to be the case on most days, have the strength and skill to overpower any opponent.

However, the two occasions when the Blackcaps secured wins against India – the fourth ODI in Hamilton and the first T20I in Wellington – the margins were emphatic and the victories, comprehensive. The hosts gave glimpses of how their ability to swing the ball and the bat, as and when required, can distress any team.

As the second T20I is set to be played at Eden Park, let us take a closer look at the various possibilities in the team line-ups.

From the Indian dugout:

The most glaring shortcoming in the Indian performance was the lack of a well-defined top order. After the reputed opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan failed to build a partnership of India’s liking on their third successive outing, there was no solid number three batsman to construct a foundation for the power-hitters, MS Dhoni and Rishabh Pant, to play their part.

With a view to make up for this frailty, India could bring in Shubman Gill, who despite his modest start in senior cricket, still has the potential to live up to his Under-19 reputation. To add significant depth in the batting order, Kedar Jadhav could find a place in the playing XI too.

The bowling unit could also see some reinforcements, given how not a single bowler was spared of the beating off the Kiwi willow. Khaleel Ahmed’s poor show with the white ball has been a perennial issue throughout Team India’s tour Down Under. With Siddarth Kaul and Mohammed Siraj warming the bench, Khaleel could be making way for either of the two.

Kuldeep Yadav, who had an impressive economy rate of 5.50 in the T20Is against Australia in 2018, could be playing in Auckland. His inclusion to the side could mean resting his spin twin Yuzvendra Chahal who conceded 35 runs in his four overs in the Wellington match.

From the New Zealand dugout:

After handing the visitors their worst ODI loss in terms of balls left, the Kiwis were beyond reach as their target of 220 resulted in India’s biggest defeat in terms of runs they fell short by.

The latter was scripted by a sizzling performance from their makeshift opener Tim Seifert. The Kiwi batsmen will grow in confidence knowing the last three Super Smash games at the venue have seen 180-plus runs being scored on four instances. The hosts will expect Colin Munro, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor to continue their fine form so as to keep their edge over Team India in T20Is.

While most things worked as per plan for the Blackcaps, all-rounders Daryl Mitchell and Colin de Grandhomme failed to perform. Jimmy Neesham will be the first choice all-rounder should New Zealand make a change. The Kiwi bowlers managed to keep reins on India’s runs and a had healthy share in their wickets but Scott Kuggeleijn was expensive with 34 runs in two overs. The hosts could look to strengthen their bowling by bringing in Doug Bracewell at Kuggeleijn’s expense.

Not having lost a T20I series (min. two matches) since August 2016, India will be determined to improve their 2-7 record against New Zealand to register their first T20I win on Kiwi soil. The second T20I will start at 11:30 AM IST on February 8.