The bench strength of both teams will be tested when they arrive at the Westpac Park for the second ODI. India, in all likelihood, will be missing Ishant Sharma, who has not fully recovered from his shoulder injury. New Zealand may be without Brendon McCullum, who bruised his thumb in the last match, and will not keep wickets even if he passes a late fitness test. Both men are central to their team’s plans, and the manner in which the rest of the players react, rallying around the captain’s call, could well have a decisive impact on how this series goes.
For New Zealand, the match is virtually a must-win situation, for going 0-2 down is not an option the skipper wants to consider. India, meanwhile, ride on momentum, and once they get going, they move from strength to strength.
India have the balance and variety to absorb the absence of Ishant, although the fifth seamer was probably their weakest link in the 53-run win at Napier. The manner in which Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Gary Kirsten have used different players to perform different roles, especially with the bat, has kept other teams on their toes.
Munaf Patel only bowled two overs in the rain-shortened first ODI while Praveen Kumar returned figures of 6-1-28-2 but neither threatened once the white Kookaburra became old. Dhoni has the option of returning to Irfan Pathan, but there’s every chance that the team might decide to give Praveen and Munaf another chance to turn the heat on.
For New Zealand, Peter McGlashan will keep wickets and if McCullum plays as a batsman, Neil Broom is likely to miss out.
Daniel Vettori conceded that his team would be hit if McCullum missed out. “If he is not there, it takes the experience out of that top four. Jesse (Ryder) and Martin (Guptill) haven’t played a lot of cricket and Ross (Taylor) is starting to find his feet in the international game after 50-odd games,” said Vettori. “Take McCullum out, and you lose his experience and that knowledge of how to chase down scores or even set up a big score. He will be a big loss but we are pretty excited with the way Martin and Jesse are playing. If they have to go out and open the batting, we still have a lot of confidence in them.”
Confidence is a wonderful thing, but when there’s a big target on the board, experience certainly helps.
India have heaps of this commodity, and if the weather holds, they will back themselves to deliver the goods once more.