Pushed out of their comfort zone by some incisive swing bowling in challenging conditions, a jolted India will gain confidence from Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s return as they aim to finish the five-match one-day international series against New Zealand on a high.
Dhoni, India’s most experienced ODI player currently, has started 2019 in good form, scoring three half centuries and a 48 in his four outings so far with the bat. Though his prowess has come under question, there was little doubt that India missed his presence in the middle when they needed someone to arrest the top order collapse caused by Trent Boult.
Assistant coach Sanjay Bangar confirmed that Dhoni is fit and available for the game.
Dhoni was out with a hamstring injury during last two matches and his return couldn’t have been timed better after India’s spectacular collapse for 92 in Hamilton.
India would enjoy to record a 4-1 margin more than 3-2, of course, but it will be easier said than done at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. The windy conditions might come to Boult’s aid as he again marks his run-up.
And that’s where Dhoni’s presence will be a factor in that middle order which still isn’t rock solid if skipper Virat Kohli isn’t around. Dhoni’s calmness in anchoring the innings will be priceless.
But it remains to be seen who he replaces: will it be Shubman Gill who made his debut in Hamilton or Dinesh Karthik who has been keeping wickets in Dhoni’s absence.
Middle order under focus
Stop us if you have heard this before: India’s middle order is not the most confidence-inspiring part of the ODI team.
The Hamilton match was another reminder as Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik failed to prove that they can stand up and be counted if Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan fail on a given day, especially with Kohli also not around.
With the three-match T20I series ahead and also the World Cup round the corner, India will have to address this weakness to ensure that their much-vaunted batting doesn’t crumble on an odd day when the condition aids swing bowling in England.
Remember the Champions Trophy final?
Stand-in skipper Rohit has already described the collapse in the last match as ‘one of the worst batting performance’ by the team and he would like to lead by example by quickly getting over the disappointment with another fiery opening stand with Dhawan on Sunday.
Having returned from provisional suspension post his controversial appearance on a television show, Hardik Pandya has provided reminders of his importance in the ODI team and he will look to continue to deliver. It will also be interesting to see if Mohammed Shami comes back for the final game with Bhuvneshwar Kumar getting some rest.
Fired up New Zealand
Although the series is done and dusted, the fourth ODI win gave a new lease of life to New Zealand’s campaign and they will look to dish out another superlative performance before the T20I series.
Opener Henry Nicholls, who replaced Colin Munro in the fourth ODI, made an unbeaten 30 to provide solidity at the top, while Ross Taylor looked in good touch en route his 93 and 37 not out in the last two innings.
New Zealand, however, is likely to miss out opener Martin Guptill who suffered a back injury during practice.
In the bowling department, Boult will once again lead the attack, fired up by his five-wicket haul while Colin de Grandhomme provided solid support with his three-wicket haul in the last match.
Back into the New Zealand fold, all rounder James Neesham and spinner Todd Astle have made a decent start with one wicket each in the fourth game and will be raring to have another go.
India: Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Vijay Shankar, Shubman Gill, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Siraj, Khaleel Ahmed, Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham (wk), Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, and Ross Taylor.
Match Starts at 7:30 am.