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Starts 27 Jan 2023, 07:00 PM IST
 
Right. In the ODI series, it felt as if only one team had turned up. New Zealand had their moments, especially when Michael Bracewell and Devon Conway hit sparkling hundreds at Indore and Hyderabad, respectively but it always seemed that they were hoping to cause a flutter in the Indian ranks rather than bossing proceedings.

Now, the attention turns to the T20I installment, which considering the close proximity of the ODI World Cup, can pale in significance. But it is still a chance for both sets of players to see how they fare against a top-drawer outfit and possibly build towards the next T20 World Cup.

India, from that perspective, will have more things to figure out during the series. Hardik Pandya has been retained as captain. KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli do not feature, and Sanju Samson is injured. So, there will be gigs for Ishan Kishan and Rahul Tripathi, both of whom would want to stake a claim for a more permanent berth. Oh, and Prithvi Shaw is also in the squad. If he gets a game is another question. That he is in the side is cause for celebration in itself.

Then there is Suryakumar Yadav – arguably the best T20 batter on the planet. In ODIs, he has struggled lately. In this format, though, he remains incomparable and the batter that makes India tick, irrespective of the conditions and the opposition. Pandya, too, would want to identify what his best role in the middle-order is, and gain experience performing that role.

Bowling wise, India might be tempted to throw Umran Malik into the mix, with the speedster having featured only once during the ODIs. Arshdeep Singh is expected to slot into the eleven too, with Shivam Mavi making up the fast-bowling unit. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal could go head-to-head for one spot, with the other spin-bowling slot potentially going to Washington Sundar, considering he can wield the long handle lower down the order.

New Zealand, on the other hand, will be led by Mitchell Santner. Devon Conway and Finn Allen form a fearsome opening partnership, with this being Glenn Phillips’ more preferred habitat too. Bracewell adds muscle to the middle-order, as does Daryl Mitchell. So, on paper, the Black Caps can give India a run for their money. The question is whether they can play to potential and actually do so.

With the ball, they lack experience in the absence of Tim Southee and Trent Boult. But if you look at it from a different standpoint, it is another chance for Blair Tickner, Henry Shipley and Jacob Duffy to show they belong at this stage. For someone like Lockie Ferguson, it is an opportunity to remind the world of the damage he is capable of causing.

Thus, there is plenty to look forward to in this series. It might not be very pertinent this year but in a few months’ time, when the conversation again shifts to T20I cricket, this series will get its due in terms of significance. When that happens, both teams would ideally want a win to talk about, rather than exploring things that went wrong and how those could be rectified!