Hurt India aim to make amends in ODI series opener
Their pride hurt in the Twenty20 internationals, India would be aiming to rediscover their winning momentum when they take on a rampaging New Zealand in the first match of the five-ODI cricket series starting on Tuesday.
A defeat in the first day-nighter at the McClean Park on Tuesday would mean India, who will miss the services of Ishant Sharma because of injury in the first match, would have to play catch-up with the Black Caps who are on a high after blanking the fancied visitors 2-0 in the Twenty20 series.
If India began their 48-day sojourn as the favourites, the tide has cruelly turned against them.
They have been outdone by a set of talented all-rounders, who could be classified as batsmen-bowlers, bowler-batsmen and a swashbuckling wicketkeeper-batsman.
India desperately lack a match-winning all-rounder and in Ravindra Jadeja they had one in the making, but the left-hander has returned home after the T20 internationals.
His alacrity in the field coupled with his all-round abilities would have been of value to the side.
The right shoulder injury to Ishant Sharma has set India back with the lanky pacer ruled out of the game. More
The wiry speedster had formed a formidable new-ball pair with Zaheer Khan, bowling out teams even on lifeless tracks. His pace and nagging accuracy would have come handy on this rock-hard wicket, which curator Phil Sotom described as "good as gold."
Ishant's indisposition, however, paves the way for either Praveen Kumar or Munaf Patel to find a place in the XI on Tuesday.
The team management remains hopeful that the 20-year-old seamer, who has scalped 37 wickets in 25 ODIs, will be ready for the second ODI at Wellington on March 6.
It is a return of sorts for Sachin Tendulkar, who hasn't played a game in almost three weeks, since being dubiously adjudged LBW thrice in the one-day series in Sri Lanka, which India handsomely won 4-1.
The batting maestro said he was happy with his form. "I have been working hard at the nets and have been hitting the ball well. I am looking forward to the ODIs," said Tendulkar, who will look to improve on his already glittering record (16446 runs, 42 centuries).
Having garnered over 60 per cent of his runs as an opener, Tendulkar would seek to continue to open the batting.
But with Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag forming a productive pair at the top, the team management would be inclined to stick to this combination.
Though it is too early on the tour to judge performance, Indian batsmen have not batted as well as they could.
The top order, which floundered in the T20s, would have to fire if the tourists are to win Tuesday's contest, and take the lead in the five-match series.
Only if Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gambhir provide the platform, would Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan be able to play their natural game.
With or without Ishant, India can answer New Zealand's pace with fire. And if the batting gets going, the visitors can destroy the Kiwis with their strokeplay.
But when it comes to fielding, the Kiwis hold a distinct edge over their opponents. Noticeably, the hosts' athleticism has deprived India of vital runs, which could have possibly won the second T20 at Wellington.
Interestingly, it is only the 76th ODI contest between the two teams, since rubbing shoulders with each other in the World Cup in 1975. India have won 36 of these contests while New Zealand have come on top in 35.