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Hungry India close in on series win as New Zealand look to fight back

Our expert's take on the India-New Zealand ODI series.

Virat Kohli, India
Virat Kohli has been in sublime form this series

The fourth ODI between India and New Zealand is right around the corner and the series looks very well poised at this stage, with the home team leading 2-1. Results so far have shown that the young Indians have what it takes to last at the highest level.

India got off to a good start in Dharamsala, strolling home to a comfortable win. Conditions were perfect for New Zealand as the wicket looked quite good but the visitors put in a disappointing performance. The Indians put in an incredibly disciplined bowling performance, especially debutant, Hardik Pandya, who was very impressive and was rightly declared the ‘Man of the Match.’

As far as the Indian run chase is concerned, it goes without saying that Virat Kohli is very much at ease on these wickets. He has been extremely consistent, hungry for runs, and able to stay at the wicket for long. Technically, Kohli’s style of leaning into the stroke enables him to get closer to the ball, giving him a great advantage as he gets into his groove quickly, and more often than not, results in big scores for the Indian Test captain.

Also read: 5 most bankable players from the India - New Zealand ODI series so far

He recognizes the importance of his wicket and plays according to the situation. With 26 centuries under his belt, 3000+ runs on Indian wickets and the best average in the world when chasing a total, there is no question that Virat Kohli is the most bankable batsman in ODI cricket, something that was seen when he was awarded the ‘Jana Bankable Player’ award in the first ODI.

What I would really be interested in is seeing how the Indian team chases when they don’t have Kohli to fall back on. We saw glimpses of that in the second match when Hardik Pandya took the team close, but couldn’t complete the task at hand.

With India playing five more ODIs before the Champions Trophy in 2017, it is very heartening to see players like Kedar Jadhav and Manish Pandey being given a run in the side.

The next destination for the series is Ranchi, the hometown of the Indian captain, MS Dhoni. Kane Williamson and his men need to turn up the heat and will be looking to level the series. However, the Indian team would love to give Dhoni a Diwali gift by winning the series with one match to spare.

Mandeep to get the nod

Openers, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma, have struggled to get the team off to a good start so far which may give Dhoni a reason to make a change and bring in the talented Mandeep Singh, who’s waiting for a break. After losing a close match in Delhi, which incidentally was their first loss in the national capital in 11 years, India made sure Mohali proved to be a happy hunting ground for them.

The win there was vital in order to ensure they retained the upper hand in the series. A big concern that I have is that we are becoming a team that is very dependent on Virat Kohli but a lot of my fears were laid to rest by the fact that captain MS Dhoni promoted himself to number four and contributed a great knock. His knock reminded me of his younger days when he used to turn matches on their head with his destructive hitting and ability to build an innings smartly.

He also created a number of records in Mohali, completing 9000 runs in ODIs, along with registering 151 dismissals as a wicketkeeper. He also became the Indian to hit the most number of sixes in ODI history, surpassing Sachin Tendulkar’s record.

Impressive bowling

Jasprit Bumrah, India
Jasprit Bumrah won the ‘Jana Bankable Player’ award in the second ODI

A closer look at the Indian bowling shows how impressive their performances have been, especially considering how inexperienced they were coming into the series.  

A moment that brought a smile to my face was when Hardik Pandya got his ODI cap from the legendary Kapil Dev, reminding me of the day I made my debut when I got a cap from our captain then, Kapil Dev, at Jamshedpur, against the West Indies.

The performances of the fast bowlers have been impressive, with the trio of Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, and Jasprit Bumrah working well together. Yadav and Pandya have helped get early breakthroughs while Bumrah has shown his best during the slog overs. Bumrah has kept the batsmen guessing with a mixture of slow deliveries and yorkers. His performances have been full of guile and it is after a long time that I have seen someone bowling economically in the slog overs and getting wickets at the same time.

His ability to be consistent and accurate with his bowling has served the Indians very well, and also helped him win the ‘Jana Bankable Player’ award following the second ODI.

The spinners too have done a great job, with Amit Mishra bowling according to the situation and keeping the pressure on. However, the spin sensation in this series has been Kedar Jadhav, who is getting a wicket in every game. Jadhav being picked to bowl regularly is an outcome of Dhoni’s out of the box thinking. The performance of the two has added lots of pressure on Axar Patel, with the left-armer in desperate need of pulling up his socks and putting in a performance deserving of a place in the team.

Ahead of the series, Luke Ronchi, Corey Anderson and Tom Latham insisted that New Zealand were a formidable ODI unit. Of the three, Latham is the only one to have so far offered any validation for those claims. The visitors’ top order collapses early leaving low targets for the Indians to chase, and that is something the home side have shown they are good at, although, the second ODI saw Kane Williamson scoring an exquisite century and his team recording a narrow victory over the hosts.

To conclude, I would like to say that the series is India’s to lose and with the Kiwis in a do or die situation, the remaining matches promise to be a very entertaining spectacle. 

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