New Zealand must be hurting and how. The last time they took the field they had been thrashed 3-0 in the Tests in Australia, and the last time they played a T20I, it ended in, well, a Super Over loss to England. New Zealand were leading that five-match T20I series 2-1 and even though they handed England an innings loss in the Test series later, crossing the Tasman Sea after that dented their confidence considerably. Now, New Zealand face a stiff opposition in India to end their home summer before landing in Australia again for three ODIs.
The India series will be “huge” for them, as selector Gavin Larsen said, to work out a few things: a best XI with several players injured and how to restore their reputation. First, they will draw confidence from the fact that they had beaten India 2-1 in the T20Is last year, with a similar bowling attack that is to play in the coming series. The hosts have recalled Hamish Bennett, who last played an international in 2017, to join Tim Southee, Blair Tickner and Scott Kuggeleijn in the pace attack, with Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi making up the spin department. Where are the rest? Well, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry are all injured. Another worry for them will be Santner’s form, as he picked only one wicket in four Test innings in Australia. A different format, though, could do it for the left-arm spinner who took his best T20I figures – 4 for 11 – against India, in 2016.
There’s more experience to fall back on in the batting department, with Kane Williamson, who returns after missing the T20Is against England, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and Colin Munro making the top and middle order.
The series will also be the first big one for both teams in the year of the T20 World Cup later this year, with over 20 matches to go for each.
India are also without a few injured players – Shikhar Dhawan, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar – but their depth in reserves has hardly ever been stronger. They will have their tails up after drubbing Sri Lanka 2-0 in T20Is and fighting back formidably against a full-strength Australia to win 2-1 in the ODIs. They have a settled bowling line-up with four quicks, two spinners and three allrounders to choose from. With Samson replacing Dhawan in the 16-man squad, it remains to be seen if he and Pandey will get a chance if Rishabh Pant gets to play as wicketkeeper and KL Rahul plays purely as a batsman.
New Zealand TLWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Hamish Bennett will be in line to make his T20I debut with 17 international games to his name already. In the absence of New Zealand’s main frontline quicks, Bennett now has a big task ahead against India’s batting line-up that doesn’t have as much experience in the lower-middle order. Bennett could use his pace, bounce and variations in the middle or end overs to dent India’s progress towards a big total. Bennett comes on the back of figures of 3 for 34 against Auckland in the Super Smash final, New Zealand’s domestic T20 tournament, in which he finished as the leading wicket-taker with 17 scalps from 11 games, and an economy rate of 7.20.
With Pandya not returning to international cricket anytime soon, India need to have his solid back-up for the T20 World Cup. They are carrying three allrounders – Ravindra Jadeja, Shivam Dube and Washington Sundar – and it will be a good trial for both Dube and Washington in New Zealand conditions after India played their recent games at home. Both Dube and Washington could play in the XI and India need to assess if they will need a batting or a bowling allrounder more in Australia later this year.
Ross Taylor said on Tuesday the injuries in their camp has given the fringe players a chance to stake a claim for spots. New Zealand have a fairly stable top half which sees Williamson’s returns. It might mean they will have to pick one of Colin de Grandhomme and Daryl Mitchell for No. 6.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Tim Seifert (wk), 4 Kane Williamson (capt), 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Colin de Grandhomme/Daryl Mitchell, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Ish Sodhi, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Scott Kuggeleijn, 11 Hamish Bennett
India played only five bowling options in their last T20I against Sri Lanka, but may now have to pick a sixth on a high-scoring Eden Park. Virat Kohli said on the eve of the match that making KL Rahul keep in T20Is too will give them “a lot more balance” to play another batsman. In that case, they can accommodate Manish Pandey at No. 5 and two allrounders at Nos. 6 and 7 out of Ravindra Jadeja, Shivam Dube and Washington Sundar.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul (wk), 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Manish Pandey, 6 Shivam Dube 7 Washinton Sundar/Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Kuldeep Yadav/Yuzvendra Chahal, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Navdeep Saini, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Pitch and conditions
Auckland is where the Super Over was played against England recently, with both teams scoring at over 13 an over in a rain-curtailed match. A cloud cover and some drizzle is expected in the morning and evening which could affect the 7.50pm local time start. With no heavy rain expected, we should get a game even if with reduced overs.
Stats and trivia
With legspinner Adam Zampa coming into focus against Kohli in the recent ODIs, New Zealand will probably want to bowl Ish Sodhi to him early. Sodhi has a decent record against India, having dismissed Kohli and Rohit once each: he has taken 11 wickets in seven innings, averaging 16.18 with an economy rate of 7.73
Ross Taylor is batting too low to play an anchor role in this format. He has primarily batted at No. 5 for New Zealand since 2018, but at a strike rate of just 119.40, he is scoring slow for that position. Among 31 batsmen to score 100 or more runs batting at No. 5 or lower in T20Is since 2018, Taylor’s strike rate of 125.80 is 10th worst (there are 21 other batsmen that score faster than he does).
“Honestly, even if you think of revenge, these guys are so nice you can’t get into that. We get along really well with all these guys.”
Virat Kohli is not looking for revenge after the World Cup semi-final loss last year