We are a mere four months away from the World Cup and India dared to add a player who has never played international cricket and is only 19. Virat Kohli said that he was not even 10 per cent the batsman when he was as young as Shubman Gill.
India have two all-rounders in Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja: while one can bowl over 140 kmph, the other is a wily left-arm orthodox. If one of the five bowlers have a bad day, India have Kedar Jadhav in the armoury. He likes to take big wickets for fun and that too in a span of 4-5 overs. He thanks MS Dhoni’s commentary behind the wickets.
And we need not shed light upon India’s batting prowess.
New Zealand, on the other hand, looked flawless and ready for the World Cup – but only before they played India. The visiting team’s domination has exposed chinks in New Zealand’s armour. They are now having second thoughts about Colin Munro as an opening batter, and their bowlers have looked toothless. No doubt that New Zealand are strong contenders to lift the World Cup, but they need contingency plans, and they might as well find a solution in the fifth and final ODI at Westpac Stadium, Wellington.
The previous ODI at Westpac Stadium produced a last-over thriller. New Zealand needed 15 off the last over. At the crease was Kane Williamson unbeaten on 102. Bowling to him was Chris Woakes. Williamson hit a six off the third ball, but that was the only glory shot of the over. England won by 4 runs.
You want such a thriller, don’t you? Given the way New Zealand have been throwing in the towel, the chances are remote.
All the same, the drop-in wicket here helps the batters more. The highest score reads 393 for 6 by New Zealand against West Indies.
Dinesh Karthik fields when Dhoni keeps wickets. He takes the gloves when Dhoni is nursing his injury. He plays the role of a finisher. He is sometimes sent up the order, even ahead of Jadhav. To cut it short, Karthik has been doing more than what is expected of him.
Before the Australia series, the critics wanted Dhoni to retire. After the series, Dhoni walked away with the Player of the Series award. He may not be the force he once was, but India needs his services now more than ever.
Tom Latham is a class-apart player. He has got technique. He has temperament. He has all the ingredients of a champion, but what he lacks is consistency. On his day, he can outplay Karthik and Dhoni.
Since the 2015 World Cup, only Virat Kohli has been better than Ross Taylor. The ICC Rankings for batters tell you the same story, that Taylor sits comfortably at the second spot. He has got starts in each match of series. Thanks to the India’s disciplined bowling that Taylor could not unleash his devastating self.
Williamson has scored runs in bits and pieces, but he too has been a victim of top-class bowling. Meanwhile, Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, and Henry Nicholls need to step up and on consistent basis.
India do not have problems with their batting whatsoever. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, and Kohli have been scoring bulk of the runs, while the middle and lower-middle order have been as clinical as ever.
Jadhav has been getting enough game time and hence India may try to play all-rounders Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, and Vijay Shankar. What combination will they dish out, is a question only time can tell.
New Zealand need to play James Neesham more often. He was spectacular with both bat and ball against Sri Lanka earlier this month and deserves a permanent spot in the playing XI.
Doug Bracewell uses the long handle to good effect. It is his bowling that he needs to work on, as he squanders when the Indian batters attack him. Meanwhile, Colin de Grandhomme has been given a chance only once this series: he leaked runs at 7.75.
When Jasprit Bumrah comes back, either Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Mohammad Shami will be benched. Bhuvi has been effective with both new and old ball, while Shami has a knack of running through batting line-ups. However, the question remains: how will India fit in Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammad Siraj?
India’s spin twin – Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav – have been cryptonites for batters across the globe. Chahal is a smart operator, while Kuldeep’s variations are difficult to read.
India have never let the New Zealand bowlers dictate terms, and that’s been the spot of bother for Williamson. The only bowler who has looked threatening on consistent basis is Trent Boult.
Probable XI for New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Henry Nicholls/James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Doug Bracewell, Ish Sodhi/Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson/Matt Henry
Probable XI for India: Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik/MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Mohammad Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammad Shami/Khaleel Ahmed, Yuzvendra Chahal
At Westpac Stadium, Kane Williamson is the highest run-scorer (434 in 8 matches) and Tim Southee is the highest wicket-taker (25 wickets in 9 matches). I’d opt for players who know the nook and cranny of a stadium.
You may go for any wicketkeeper. The reason I have preferred Karthik is that I had only 8 credit points left.
Pandya and Neesham are the top choices to gather bonus points with both bat and ball. So start your fantasy cricket team wisely.
My XI: Dinesh Karthik (wk), Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Hardik Pandya (vc), James Neesham, Tim Southee, Yuzvendra Chahal, Khaleel Ahmed