A rejuvenated Mahendra Singh Dhoni will look to continue his rediscovered form and guide India to a series-clinching win when India take on New Zealand in the fourth ODI in the skipper’s home town of Ranchi on Wednesday.
Dhoni promoted himself to No.4 in the last ODI in Mohali and set up the seven-wicket win in the company of centurion Virat Kohli to give the hosts a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.
Dhoni’s 91-ball 80 in Mohali, his first ODI half-century in over a year, also took him to the club of 9,000 runs. He became the first to reach there with an average of 50 or more.
The limited-overs captain and Ranchi’s favourite son may be seen in his last appearance at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association Stadium Complex , which has hosted three ODIs and one T20I, with India winning all of them except for a rain-marred one-dayer.
Dhoni’s deputy, Kohli, will also look forward to return to the venue where he has scores of 77 not out and 139 not out in two ODI innings.
In Mohali, Kohli once again showed how dangerous he can be after being dropped early in his innings. He came into his own after the reprieve on six and scripted a flawless 154 not out off 134 balls to take India past New Zealand’s 285.
It was Kohli’s 26th century -- 22 have come in a winning cause, same as Sachin Tendulkar -- and 14 in successful chases.
And come Wednesday, stopping the 27-year-old Delhi batsman will be at the top of New Zealand’s wish-list.
In their decisive 151-run third wicket partnership, Dhoni showed a renewed optimism and hunger while Kohli was at his clinical best.
At 35, Dhoni has himself acknowledged his diminishing prowess as a finisher , something that prompted him to elevate himself to No.4 in the batting line-up.
“To some extent I am losing my ability to freely rotate (strike) in the middle. If it keeps on happening for a long time, tendency is you don’t fluently rotate strike and that was what was happening with my batting,” he had said.
Back home where it all began for him, it will be an emotional match for the Indian skipper, who has won every ICC trophy and he would look to make the outing a memorable one.
Dhoni’s return to form will be a further cause of alarm for the Kiwis, who are desperate to prove a point after their 0-3 whitewash in the Test series.
Despite opting to rest their three premier bowlers in the Tests -- Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami and Ravindra Jadeja keeping in view the gruelling home season ahead -- India have done reasonably well in the bowling department.
The biggest surprise has been part-time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav, who has taken six wickets at less than eight runs an over, and is joint second in the wicket-takers’ list behind leg-spinner Amit Mishra.