New Zealand v India 2019: Kiwis may surprise India with new challenges
A Test and ODI series win in Australia will set expectations from Team India sky high on their tour of New Zealand for five ODI and three T20 series which starts on 23 January 2019. India had their part of the struggle even though they won the ODI series.
An early top-order collapse saw them losing the first ODI, while the second and third one saw the matches went till the last couple of overs. The struggling Australian team failed to post 300 or above in all the games, and a risk-free patient approach from Dhoni took India over the line in a couple of occasions. The scenario may not be the same when they land in New Zealand, and the challenges may be different to what Kohli's men had gone through in the past few months.
New Zealand has a confident batting and bowling unit, unlike Australia. They wrapped up Srilanka 3-0 at home with most of their top order and middle order contributing with the bat. Bowling unit has done an excellent work led by Tim Southee. They possess more power in familiar home conditions. Kane Williamson's leadership will be another significant advantage for them in a series against a number two ranked India.
The Black Caps had a few days off after the Sri Lanka series, and they are fresh ahead of the series. On the other hand, India are travelling to New Zealand after a long stint in Australia. They have only four days break between the final ODI at MCG and first ODI in Napier. India will be playing the first game without any practice match and even before they get familiar with the playing and weather conditions. The lack of practice matches may impact them in the initial games.
New Zealand has one of the best top order consisting of Guptil, Munro, Williamson, and Ross Taylor who are all in excellent form and scored runs in the last series against Srilanka. Ross Taylor anchors the innings well with Nicholls, Collin de Grandhome, Latham, and Bracewell who can up the run rate with their natural aggressive style. The conditions and the smaller ground will work in their favor to post a massive score on board.
India's team balance will be in question once again as they prepare for the first ODI. Bumrah's absence and the struggles of Khaleel and Siraj had forced India to bring in a couple of all-rounders in the final ODI at MCG.
Kedar Jadhav came in at the expense of Rayudu, and Vijay Shankar replaced Siraj. However, India may not go without a genuine batsman against a confident top-class bowling unit like New Zealand. Tim Southee, Trent Boult, and Matt Henry can run through any top order.
India may not wish to be without specialist batsmen in their top six in such a situation. Vijay Shankar or Kedar Jadhav will miss out in such case which will also demand one of their allrounders to bowl full quota of 10 overs. The alternate plan will be to play three spinners Jadeja, Chahal and Kuldeep if Kohli doesn’t prefer to play the Khaleel or Siraj. It will be interesting to see how New Zealand pitches will favour such a combination.
India may still depend on Rohit or Kohli to do the bulk of the scoring at one end and the others to play around them. Dhawan's inconsistency and the less exposure to middle order will be a worry for the management. Dhoni's approach has been successful in Australia where India was chasing targets less than 300. New Zealand may offer a different scenario where the teams will be looking forward to scoring more than 330. Any top order collapse or failure of Rohit and Kohli in the same match will impact India's chances of posting or chasing a massive total on board.
India's tour of New Zealand in 2014 saw New Zealand wrapping up the series 4-0. Kohli and Dhoni were India's best batsmen in the trip where Rohit and Dhawan struggled throughout the five matches. The openers will hope of change in fortunes this time and look for another series win in challenging conditions which will also answer a lot of the questions about the team balance and finding right combinations for the upcoming World Cup.