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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

India vs New Zealand: Virat Kohli & Co look to avoid first series defeat since 2015

India will be looking to level the three-match series when they take on New Zealand in the 2nd ODI match in Mumbai on Wednesday. They have not lost an ODI series since 2015.

india-vs-new-zealand-2017 Updated: Oct 24, 2017 17:27 IST
Bihan Sengupta
Bihan Sengupta
Hindustan Times, Pune
India face New Zealand in the 2nd ODI encounter in Pune on Wednesday.
India face New Zealand in the 2nd ODI encounter in Pune on Wednesday.(AFP)

The last time India had lost a one-day series at home, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was still captain in limited overs, Harbhajan Singh was a regular and Mohit Sharma was showing promise as a medium-pacer.

That was on October 25, 2015 when three South African batsmen ripped apart India’s bowling to pile up 438/4 en route to winning the match and bagging the series 3-2. Two years later, Dhoni is still in the team but with a limited role while Harbhajan and Mohit haven’t played an ODI since that loss.

READ | Virat Kohli’s aggression has become India’s strength, says Sachin Tendulkar

Exactly two years since that series loss, India need to stave off a spirited New Zealand and keep the three-match series alive in Pune on Wednesday. A series loss wouldn’t just be an unexpected blot on their formidable home record but also question the team’s core strength at a time they have been experimenting heavily with the middle order.

Kiwis in good shape

The first warm-up game in Mumbai was an indication of what could be expected from the visitors. Seamer Trent Boult took a five-wicket haul while Tom Latham and Ross Taylor looked comfortable tackling spin, showing how well they have prepared.

India’s biggest problem is the absence of a plan B in case spin doesn’t work. By the time Virat Kohli had turned to spinners for the second time in the first ODI, New Zealand needed just 63 off nine overs with seven wickets in hand.

READ | Ashish Nehra farewell vs New Zealand: BCCI makes amends for missed opportunities

Latham and Taylor look in ominous form, having stitched together 210 in the second warm-up game and 200 in the first ODI. The ploy of pushing Latham down the order too had worked. During a phase spinners usually dominate, they had no clue how to take care of Latham.

Unfamiliar scenario

Having built the reputation of a side that can decimate oppositions at will, India find themselves with their backs to the wall. After registering back-to-back series wins against Sri Lanka and Australia, a loss doesn’t bring the side under scanner but definitely leaves them needing a touch-up.

Still, Tuesday was declared an optional practice day with neither the pacers nor the skipper hitting the nets. Pressure definitely will be on the middle order that failed to stick together on Sunday. That perhaps explained the quality time spent by Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav and Dhoni at nets.

READ | Tom Latham, New Zealand batsman, passes spin test yet again

In all fairness though, the bowlers should have been more proactive as Sunday was the first time in over a year that they picked just four wickets in a home ODI. The ease with which the Kiwis dominated India’s chinaman duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal should be a concern too.

Both Latham and Taylor looked in control, sweeping and reverse-sweeping at will but bowling coach Bharat Arun didn’t seem too worried. “It’s a one-off game and we won nine games on the trot before that. They did their job well,” he said.

First Published: Oct 24, 2017 17:04 IST

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