India had endured a nightmare back in 2020 in New Zealand when Virat Kohli’s side was blanked 0-3 in one of the most lopsided series where the bowling effort was below par.
Exactly 11 months are left for the marquee event in India and the series starting on Friday will give the team an initial idea about some of the middle-order slots and also the bowling arsenal in India’s armoury.
With five seniors — skipper Rohit Sharma, the talismanic Virat Kohli, team management’s favourite KL Rahul, pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah and No.1 ODI all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja not part of this series, the management can only get a rough idea in which direction the team would move.
All these big guns will now play a lot of of ODI cricket, starting with the Bangladesh series, and the team combination will undergo a sea change once they all come back in due course.
Just like the dilemmas of T20Is, Indian coach Rahul Dravid will have a lot on his plate but for now, his understudy VVS Laxman also needs to do a tight rope walking as far as this series is concerned.
Dhawan will be close to 38 during next year’s World Cup and in ODIs in the last two years, he has scored nearly 1000 runs. This is the only international format he plays. Since T20 got more precedence, his appearances has been pretty sporadic.
But to put things in perspective, both Kohli and Rohit have played one third of the ODIs that Dhawan played as they concentrated more on Tests and T20Is with World Test Championship and back-to-back T20 World Cups lined up.
In the meantime, Shubman Gill has shown his prowess as an ODI opener in a dozen of games he has played so far with an average of 57 plus and a strike-rate of 100 plus.
But even in this format, Dhawan has been a cautious starter in Powerplays and then picked up pace. Team’s philosophy will be the main thing along with a decision whether the Delhi southpaw would be persisted for next one year with Rohit, Rahul and Gill also there.
Rahul, in ODIs, has started batting down the order at times and Shreyas Iyer has been one of India’s consistent ODI players despite his problems with short ball. Suryakumar Yadav, who is in the form of his life can’t be dropped from the middle-order if he is fit to play.
Sanju Samson, the phenomenal talent from Kerala, with his wide range of strokes can’t be ignored for a long time either and Deepak Hooda brings his all-round skills to the table.
BOWLING ATTACK FOR 3 ODIS
Coming back to the series, there are three 50-over games in a space of five days and fast bowlers’ recovery period will be paramount.
Deepak Chahar is expected to start and is likely to have the seasoned Shardul Thakur for company since both offer decent batting option lower down the order.
Arshdeep Singh is likely to be the third option but he has been constantly playing so there could be a chance to check out a Kuldeep Sen or an Umran Malik. The flip side is short ground. There is every chance that their pace could become a disadvantage.
Arshdeep Singh (BCCI Photo)
Washington Sundar is also likely to be in playing XI and due to the short dimensions of Eden Park ground, with its awkward angles, Dhawan might prefer an extra pacer instead of an extra spinner.
New Zealand’s core for the series is more or less same like the T20s. With swing bowler Tim Southee, tearaway quicks Adam Milne, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry and spinner Mitchell Santner in its raks, the home teams’ attack looks formidable on paper.
Add to it all-rounders Daryl Mitchell and Jimmy Neesham, who are more than decent with capability of bowling full 10 overs by themselves, the attack wears even a more menacing look.
INDIA: Shikhar Dhawan (captain), Shubman Gill, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Deepak Hooda, Shahbaz Ahmed, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Deepak Chahar, Arshdeep Singh, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Sen, Umran Malik.
NEW ZEALAND: Kane Williamson (captain), Finn Allen, Devin Conway, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Glenn Phillips, Michael Bracewell, Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Adam Milne, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Lockie Ferguson.