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India’s chance to ground the Kiwis

New Zealand trail 0-2 in the series — their losing streak is eight matches long starting from the tri-series in Dambulla in August — and a loss in Vadodara will seal the five-match series for India. Nilankur Das reports.Match reckoner

cricket Updated: Dec 04, 2010 02:23 IST
Nilankur Das

No one in this New Zealand squad has played a match here. So it’s the experience they want to imbibe more than anything else going into the third match of the one-day series on Saturday. They trail 0-2 in the series — their losing streak is eight matches long starting from the tri-series in Dambulla in August — and a loss here will seal the five-match series for India.

One man who can change things in their favour, hard-hitting batsman and wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum, is recovering from lower back spasms and is yet to take part in the one-day series. The intensity of McCullum’s net session on Friday morning suggested he is likely to be in the XI at the Reliance Stadium here and that will be a big boost to New Zealand, given the fact that their other main batsman, Ross Taylor, is off colour.

The Indian bowlers, too, have not been attacked enough and if the former Kolkata Knight Riders opener gets into the groove, it would put India’s performance in perspective given that there is a series coming up in South Africa and only eight more one-dayers to go before the World Cup in February.

For India, Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar are back after missing the first two matches. Zaheer will be keen to test his fitness after he missed the third Test in Nagpur with a groin injury. Praveen is back after recovering from fever.

So India will have their full battery of pacers and stand-in skipper Gautam Gambhir will have tough time deciding whom to rest among Zaheer, Praveen, Ashish Nehra and Munaf Patel. Given that India are looking to wrap up the series here itself, trying out R Vinay Kumar, who is not in the squad for the fourth and fifth one-dayers, seems unlikely.

Without Suresh Raina in the middle order, the chances of Saurabh Tiwary getting into the XI seem bright. Son-of-the-soil Yusuf Pathan could be promoted in the order, along with wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, who failed with the bat at Guwahati and was not needed at Jaipur. Rohit Sharma, Raina’s ideal replacement, joins the squad before the fourth ODI, which means the middle-order lacks experience. Between Saha and Tiwary, the aggregate experience is just three one-dayers.

There will be some dampness in the wicket early on but it does not pose as much a threat as Guwahati did because here it is going to be 9am start. That extra half-an-hour (the Guwahati tie started at 8.30am) will be crucial in drying up the wicket as much as possible. The brownish tinge to the pitch due to the red soil in these parts means the ball will grip and spinners will have a crucial role towards the latter part of the match.