MS Dhoni’s batting position will be under spotlight as India aim to go for the kill against a gutsy New Zealand in the third T20 International on Tuesday, despite weather threatening to play spoilsport in Thiruvanantapuram.

The series is levelled at 1-1 and just like the preceding Australia series, where the series decider T20 at Hyderabad was a washout, there are chances that this encounter against the Black Caps could meet same fate with as there is a forecast of rain.

The Virat Kohli-led India team has been on a roll in recent times but has faced stiff resistance from an enterprising New Zealand, who have historically punched above their weight. It will be nearly three decades (29 years) since the city witnessed an international match and it has become all the more significant after calls to replace Dhoni from the shortest format gathering steam.

Former India great VVS Laxman, in no uncertain terms, said that while Dhoni can still be a part of One-day Internationals, it was time to groom someone new in the shortest format. While 49 off 37 balls with a strike-rate of 132 may make for impressive reading, the former captain’s inability to rotate strike during the past year has been a cause of concern.

At Rajkot, the former India skipper scored 26 runs in boundaries from five deliveries (3 fours and 2 sixes) and managed only 23 from the remaining 32 deliveries. It will be interesting to see where Virat Kohli and chief coach Ravi Shastri slot Dhoni in the next game. There have been calls for Dhoni to be promoted No 4 in case India lose early wickets, as it will give him time to settle down.

The Indian team’s performance has been hit-and-miss so far. They outplayed the visitors in the first T20I by 53 runs and were crushed by 40 runs in the second game, where Colin Munro took the Indian bowlers apart with a blistering hundred.

While batting, save Kohli’s 65 off 42 balls was disappointing, the bowlers and the fielders also had a below-par day. Dropped catches hurt India’s chances too while debutant Mohammed Siraj had a debut to forget. However, the good work by first-choice pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar helped keep New Zealand below 200.

Will Siraj and Shreyas play?

It remains to be seen if the team management gives the Hyderabad pacer another opportunity or opt for an extra batsman in his place. Kohli admitted after the loss at Rajkot that the batsmen were not “good enough” and stressed the need for the rest of his team to chip in.

The Kiwis, who came into the series as the no 1 ranked T20 side, has since been displaced by Pakistan. Kane Williamson and Co, however, can regain the top spot by beating India in the final game. “I guess it was a contrasting performance from the last game. An improved performance on all sides, we need to keep doing this to beat India here and going on to the next game, we need to repeat this,” Williamson said after his’s win in Rajkot.

New Zealand lost the ODI series narrowly and are proving to be tricky customers in the T20s too. The spinners, along with seamer Trent Boult have put in impressive shifts. Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, who wasn’t part of the original squad, has been a revelation and kept the Indian batsmen under check with his clever variations.

Boult rocked the Indian top-order in Rajkot, snaring the wickets of Rohit Sharma and Dhawan. Newcomer Shreyas Iyer looked good during his knock of 23 but an indiscreet shot selection cost him his wicket. All-rounder Hardik Pandya has gone off the boil since the back-end of the Australia series. The hard-hitting all-rounder, too, won’t mind a return to form in a high-stakes game.


India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shikhar Dhawan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Siraj, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, KL Rahul.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Tom Bruce, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor