The heartbreak of six months ago is hard to erase. As India, one of the strongest contenders to lift the ICC World Cup trophy faced New Zealand in the semis, the air was ripe with hope and excitement. It was firmly believed that the Men in Blue were the favorites to advance to the top-two, from whereon they would have another chance to fight for the ultimate glory in the cricket field.
However, a rejuvenated Kiwi side beat India in the game, spread over two days, and as MS Dhoni walked back to the pavilion after a hard-fought inning - also the last time that he played for India - the heart-break was all too palpable. Yuzvendra Chahal, in an interview later admitted that the dressing room was in tears after the shock loss that cut short their World Cup dreams, only echoing what the entire nation was going through. The best side in the group stages, India were undone by a determined New Zealand side in July 2019, and as the two gear up to face-off for the first time since the game, expect the tourists to go in with vengeance.
Though the six-week-long tour commences with the first T20I on January 24, Virat Kohli is not one to forget past defeats and expect him to be driven with the goal of redemption as he leads his side over the next few days.
What - New Zealand vs India, 1st T20I; January 24
Venue - Eden Park, Auckland
Start time - 06:50 AM GMT | 07:50 PM LOCAL | 12:20 PM IST
Head to Head record in T20Is - New Zealand: 8 India: 3 Tied: 0 No Result: 0
Weather - Partly Cloudy, 25°C, Precipitation: 10%, Humidity: 73%, Wind: 24 km/h
Also see – Under 19 world cup points table
Expect plenty of runs at Eden Park
The stadium at Auckland is one of the smallest grounds in world cricket, with the straight boundaries at just 55 meters. Top edges often fly over the ropes for a boundary, which only means that the batters will have a field day. Playing a finger spinner, thus, might be a risky move, with the team that wins the toss opting to chase.
The last meeting between the two sides
India had a disastrous run-in T20Is against New Zealand, only managing to win three games against them, with one being recorded last year. Competing in a three-match T20I series in New Zealand, the hosts got the better of the Indians (yet again!) defeating them 2-1.
Wicket-keeper Tim Seifert top-scored in the series with 139 runs in three games at an average of above 46, and is touted to be a dangerous player in this series as well. Mitchell Santner and Daryl Mitchell had ended up leading the wicket-taking charts for New Zealand.
As far as India’s performance in the series goes, Rohit Sharma had emerged as the top batter, and he is once again expected to lead the way, in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan. As far as India’s bowling performance in 2019 was concerned, Khaleel Ahmed and Krunal Pandya were the stars. However, both of them have not been included in the upcoming series.
New Zealand’s expected team composition and expected 11
The last time the two sides faced off, Colin Munro dished in with vital knocks, but he might not be considered as the first-choice opener this time around. Seifert is expected to open the innings along with Martin Guptill, with Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor following at 3 and 4, respectively.
Colin de Grandhomme is a certainty at number 5, and the only choice that New Zealand might face would be to either play Mitchell or push Munro up to open, with the remaining batters being pushed down one position each in the the order.
As far as the bowling goes, Santner and Ish Sodhi, despite being spinners, have a magnificent record against India, and are almost certain to take the field. Hamish Bennett, Tim Southee and Blair Tickner will have the responsibility with the new ball in the absence of injured Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson.
Expected 11 - Martin Guptill, Tim Seifert, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Colin de Grandhomme, Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Hamish Bennett, Blair Tickner, Tim Southee
India’s expected team composition and expected 11
With Shikhar Dhawan having been ruled out of the T20I and the ODI series’ due to injury, the Indian management can back KL Rahul at the opener’s slot. However, with Kohli suggesting that Rahul is likely to be entrusted with the duty of wicket-keeping as well, it would be interesting to see if the dual job leaves a toll on his performances, or whether he can pull his game up and fare well.
Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey are expected to bat at 4 and 5, with Kohli coming in at his regular number 3 spot. The one big headache that the side will have is to decide whether Rishabh Pant takes the field. The youngster has been unable to set the international stage on fire, despite his domestic heroics, and with Rahul being touted as India’s keeper for the next few games, Pant’s selection is a big question mark. If the side indeed decides to drop him from the 11, Shivam Dube should be slotted right in, for his all-round abilities.
Expected 11 - Rohit Sharma (vc), KL Rahul (wk), Virat Kohli (c), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant/Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah
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