In the last six men’s T20 internationals between them, India have won five matches while New Zealand won one – the one that mattered the most, perhaps. Back in early 2020 when India defeated New Zealand 5-0 in their own backyard, a World Cup was few months away and things looked rosy in Virat Kohli’s camp. It was a series that witnessed some thrillers, with two matches on the trot needing Super Overs and India’s clean sweep heralded fresh hope that they might have finally cracked the T20I code.

A pandemic and a postponed World Cup later, as the two teams met in UAE recently, New Zealand inflicted the latest heartbreak for India in their quest to reclaim an ICC trophy. That defeat in Dubai proved to be a decisive blow for India’s quest to reach semifinals, while the Black Caps completed an all-format hat-trick.

Throw in the World Test Championship and the 2019 World Cup, if anything, the rivalry between these two sides in recent times has been riveting.

And now, while New Zealand have barely had any time to recover from their heartbreak at the hands of Australia in the final on Sunday, India look to begin a new era. Rahul Dravid is at the helm as the new head coach, Rohit Sharma is the T20I captain (well, definitely for this series and presumably for the next year because a line in the tweet from BCCI – Rohit Sharma named the T20I Captain for India – is all we have to go by.)

IND-NZ men's T20Is H2H record

Mat India NZ Tied
Overall 17 6 9 2 (India won Super Overs)
in India 5 2 3 0

After a rude reality check in the T20 World Cup, India will aim to press the reset button for the 2022 edition under Rohit and Dravid, starting with the three-match series against New Zealand beginning in Jaipur on Wednesday.

The duo, in the next 11 months, will hope to instil a new template and philosophy in the shortest format after it became clear that some rejigging will be needed as a part of course correction.

“It’s one of the important aspects of the format where people have assurance of taking chances in the middle,” Rohit said in a joint conference with Dravid.

“If it comes off, it comes off, if it doesn’t, then what happens. That’s where both of us will need to play a huge role and part in giving an individual that assurance of going out and expressing himself.

“It’s important, especially in this format, that sometimes you just need to go out there and play fearlessly and while doing that, there are chances that you might not always be successful because it’s a short format and you’re always challenged.

“The pressure is always there. We certainly will keep an eye on that aspect; that’s where the entire set-up will play a big part that wherever that individual bats, and how we want him to bat, goes and does the job for us. If he doesn’t then we instill confidence in him that we have full faith in you, just go and do the role for the team. As long as they’re trying to do the role for the team, we are happy.”

(Video) We will look to improve every day as players and individuals: Rahul Dravid

So, a few new faces will get a chance to impress the new management with their fearless approach. And one of them is Venkatesh Iyer who has presumably been brought in as Hardik Pandya’s replacement in India’s seemingly never-ending quest for a seam-bowling, power-hitting all-rounder and the three upcoming games is likely to give an indication if India look in that direction.

The other IPL performers who have been picked in the squad are Ruturaj Gaikwad, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan and Yuzvendra Chahal, who makes a comeback after being left out of the World Cup squad.

With Jasprit Bumah rested for the series, India will be looking to find another pacer, who can consistently do well at the top and tail of an innings. As it was seen in the UAE, the extra pace always comes in handy, bringing Avesh and Mohammad Siraj into the picture. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who was not at his best in the UAE, has been given another opportunity to find his A game.

The think tank will also need to starting assessing a player’s utility keeping the Australian conditions in the mind as the country hosts the World Cup in less than 12 months time.

New Zealand men's T20Is in India

Result Margin Ground Start Date
aban - Visakhapatnam 8 Sep 2012
NZ won 1 runs Chennai 11 Sep 2012
NZ won (T20 World Cup) 47 runs Nagpur 15 Mar 2016
India won 53 runs Delhi 1 Nov 2017
NZ won 40 runs Rajkot 4 Nov 2017
India won 6 runs Thiruvananthapuram 7 Nov 2017

There are five openers in the side, on paper, and slotting them in various middle-order positions will be a challenge. Rohit and vice-captain KL Rahul are expected to open on Wednesday but India might be tempted to experiment in the presence of more options like Ishan Kishan and Gaikwad. In fact, even Venkatesh got all his runs opening for KKR but he is set to bat in the middle-order.

Suryakumar Yadav could not quite get going during the World Cup but he is one player India would be looking to groom at number four, especially for the true pitches in Australia.

In the absence of rested Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel can fill the spin bowling all-rounder slot while R Ashwin is expected to retain his place in the playing eleven after an impressive white-ball comeback in the UAE.

New Zealand, who effectively knocked India out of the World Cup but fell one step short of that elusive World Cup title, have reached Jaipur on a chartered flight from Dubai with little time to reflect on their loss to Australia in the title clash.

Head coach Gary Stead has already spoken about how the challenges his team faces, having to regroup so quickly after a draining event like the World Cup. Skipper Kane Williamson has been given rest for the T20s so that he is fresh for the following Test series. Senior pacer Tim Southee will lead the team in his absence.

However with Trent Boult for company and dangerous Daryl Mitchell in the top-order, New Zealand will be more than a handful in this series. New Zealand could perhaps give opportunities to players who did not have much to do in the UAE including Kyle Jamieson who only played the warm-up games.

Update: Jamieson unlikely to feature in the T20I series, much like Williamson choosing to prepare for the Test series.

One of the interesting match-ups will be skipper Rohit against Ish Sodhi as the India captain has had problem against wrist spinners in the past.

But more than any individual battles, the quest for balance and a viable T20 template will once again be the main focus for India and Rohit is well aware of that.

“Template is a very important one and we need to set it right. We’ve got some time to do that. India has been brilliant in this format, it’s just that we haven’t won the ICC tournament. We’ve played well and performed well as a team,” Rohit said adding that all teams have flaws and it will be a question of improving India’s and working on exploiting the others’.

“’Im not going to say that we’re going to follow a certain team’s template. We have to create our own template, see what’s best and right for tour team,” Rohit added.

“We strictly want to assign roles that we want them to do because at the end of the day what they do here matters. It can take a while or it can happen in a few games as well. To give them that long rope or confidence is important to perform their role to perfection. We’re starting afresh after the World Cup and we’ve set some ideas and thoughts for this series now. Let’s see how that pans out and we’ll take it from there.”

India: Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Venkatesh Iyer, Yuzvendra Chahal, R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Avesh Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Harshal Patel, Mohammad Siraj.

New Zealand: Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Kyle Jamieson, Adam Milne, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee (captain).
Match starts 7 PM IST.

With PTI inputs