New Zealand vs India 2019: 3 Indian players whose performance will closely watched in the T20I series
India are on song as far as their recent limited overs performances are concerned. They were convincing in all departments on their way to their first bilateral series win in Australia. They followed that up with a thumping 4-1 series win in New Zealand, repeating the feat they managed to achieve way back in 2009.
The nature and dominance of their performances have been rather impressive, especially considering the fact that India are considered weak travelers. Virat Kohli has infused a tremendous amount of self-belief and confidence within the team, and that's reflected in the way everybody is contributing regularly.
A positive trend for India coming out of their recent ODI series win against the Kiwis was that there was no one player who stood out in ensuring they won the series. If it was the likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and the spin duo who dominated in the first three games, the resilience and determination of Ambati Rayudu and Vijay Shankar came to the fore at Wellington.
India would very well know that they have just a handful of T20Is and ODIs before the squad for the ICC World Cup 2019 gets finalized. Every game from now will be played with one eye on the big tournament.
Hence, some chopping and changing of key personnel, and trying out some new faces, would be the order of the day.
India will take on New Zealand in a three-match T20I series starting on 6th February at Wellington. They have rested their captain Kohli and premier speedster Jasprit Bumrah for this series. Rohit Sharma will captain a squad that has the right balance of experience and youth.
Looking ahead to the T20I series which starts tomorrow, here's looking at three Indian players whose performance will be closely monitored:
1. MS Dhoni
A lot of talk and debate revolved around the surprise inclusion of Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the T20I series against the Kiwis. This, after all, had come after he was dropped from the T20I sides that faced off against the Windies and Australia earlier on.
The reasoning behind his exclusion was justified. Dhoni has struggled in the past 12-15 months to string together scores of substance in the shortest format for India. With the need for batsmen to constantly innovate in a bid to push up the scoring rate, MSD was failing on multiple fronts.
As a T20 player and captain he showed what he's truly capable of with his brilliant performance for the returning Chennai Super Kings (CSK) franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL) last year. But he wasn't converting the spark and finishing touch he displayed for CSK when he played for India.
With the young and fiery Rishabh Pant waiting in the wings, time ran out and MSD was axed from the T20I squad.
With only the T20I series against the Kiwis and the limited overs series at home against Australia remaining to be played before the World Cup, the selectors have decided to give MSD as much game time as possible.
It would be interesting how Dhoni perceives this series. He probably would know that DInesh Karthik will play as a pure batsmen in the lower middle-order, leaving him to don the wicket-keeping gloves for this series.
His inclusion in the team certainly brings lot of experience to this side. And if he can carry on his recent batting form from the ODIs (he was the MOS in India's 2-1 series win against Australia), then his selection would be justified.