Time for MS Dhoni's helicopter to fly high as India take on New Zealand
The recently concluded Test series against New Zealand was dominated by India, and they deservedly clinched a 3-0 win. Now, it is time for the Men in Blue to get ready to take on the Kiwis in a 5-match ODI series, under the leadership of captain cool Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Having taken a look at the squad, I am quite surprised to see that many important players have been rested by the selectors. The bowling attack has a different look to it, with the bowlers who did exceptionally well right from the West Indies tour to the Indore Test not being part of the team for the first three matches.
By tinkering with their bowling line-up the selectors have taken an interesting gamble, because as the saying goes, bowlers win you matches.Resting four match-winning bowlers in the form of Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin against a solid one-day team is, in my opinion, a slightly questionable decision.
The four of them tormented the New Zealand batsmen during the Test series and their absence for the first three matches might serve as a confidence booster for the visitors. Retaining at least two of them in the squad to guide the newcomers could have helped,as it would have given Dhoni more options to find a match-winning combination.
Wickets in ODIs are generally tailor-made for the batsmen, and the bowlers have to put in a lot of effort to balance the scales. To be honest, I’m having a hard time imagining this bowling line-up giving the Kiwi batsmen a lot of trouble.
Though the Indians do have Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav, along with Amit Mishra and Axar Patel, the overall bowling attack is rather inexperienced. It remains to be seen whether the selectors' gamble pays off.
The performance of the Indian team in the 50-over format has declined after the 2015 World Cup; they have only won two series out of the five they’ve played. Not just that, but both those series wins came against Zimbabwe – a stat that wouldn't give Dhoni a lot of confidence going into the first encounter against the Kiwis.
One look at the visitors' squad and it is clear that this is a team very comfortable in the limited overs format, with a whole bunch of talented all-rounders and specialists. The likes of Corey Anderson and Mitchell Santner will be crucial to the Black Caps’ fortunes; their abilities with both ball and bat make them ideal contenders to win the Jana Bankable Player award.
With Tim Southee returning from injury, his pairing with Trent Boult will be one to be wary of.
New Zealand also have the classy Kane Williamson, who will be well supported by the power hitting duo of Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor. In my opinion, the Kiwis look a much more well-rounded outfit than the Indians, and should start as the favourites.
The biggest talking point of the series should be the form of Dhoni. The captain hasn't had a lot of success with the bat recently, having accumulated a meagre total of 86 runs in his last eight matches.
Dhoni’s position in the batting order is also shrouded in uncertainty. While this series should offer him ample opportunities to come up the order and show his ability to bat the opposition out of the game, it’s unsure whether he will take that gambit.
Added to all that is the fact that India haven't really been on top of their game in one-day internationals for some time now. The series is of great importance to the hosts, despite the team not being the strongest.
India's hopes will largely depend on Virat Kohli, who has been unbelievably good in the shorter version of the game. He has been one of the most consistent batsmen in the world over the last one year, and can take the game away from the opposition within minutes.
Kohli stands out due to his consistency, and will be one of the main contenders for the Jana Bankable Player award during the five matches. His ability to pace his innings perfectly and combine well with his teammates makes him the biggest threat to the Kiwis.
Though the team will be led by the calm and composed Dhoni, I won't be surprised if some of Kohli's aggressive style rubs off on the rest of the Indian players as well.
The selectors have chosen to give youngsters like Mandeep Singh, Manish Pandey and Axar Patel a platform to try and win a spot in the regular Indian team. Now it's up to these talented individuals to show that they belong at the biggest stage.
In the past, the Indian team has had a comfortable time against New Zealand on home soil, having won 21 out of 27 matches, with one match ending in a no-result. But if they intend on sustaining their winning run against this strong Kiwi side, they will have to perform to the absolute best of their abilities.
Dhoni has always been one of India's most consistent ODI batsmen, and is one of the most bankable limited overs players in history. His biopic has been smashing all the box office records out of the park, but can he elevate his game once more, and deliver when it matters the most?