The 22,000-seater Nehru Stadium is not expecting a full house when India begin their five-match ODI series against New Zealand. There are not many instances of a 50-over international game, especially at a small venue like this one, falling shy of a blockbuster, that too on a Sunday.
But the big names are not around. Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan have all been rested. Brendon McCullum being doubtful for the opener because of back spasms further reduces chances of fireworks. So there was no buzz around the stadium for passes and tickets.
Most of the students of a school situated near the stadium stopped after seeing a huge posse of security personnel but walked on after a casual look. But there was no let off in intensity as the teams — India in the morning and New Zealand in the afternoon — had nets.
Why not? With the seniors rested, these set of matches are a great platform for the young and restless. Opener M Vijay, off-spinner R Ashwin and the swashbuckling left-hander Saurabh Tiwary, were all part of the three-match series against Australia in October that India won 1-0. For them, the scope is unlimited, with the World Cup coming up.
For Yuvraj Singh, a series in India has more often than not got him to silence his critics. Somehow, his performance has always been under scrutiny and this time, he is coming off a lean patch. He will be raring to go on a track that looks a belter, provided the team batting first negotiates the movement assisted by the early morning juice in the surface. India would want Yuvraj to do well, keeping in mind the World Cup and his match-winning prowess.
For Gautam Gambhir, who is making his debut here as India captain, the added responsibility of making decisions, choosing Power Play periods, rotating bowlers and setting the fields over and above the task of giving India a good start, would definitely increase the significance of how he approaches this series.
Suresh Raina was tried out as skipper in Zimbabwe in May where he messed up with a Power Play decision. How Gambhir leads this pack of youngsters would be closely followed and it could come up for discussion when India at some point start looking for Dhoni's successor.