New Zealand test for new-look India
Match FactsSunday, November 28
Start time 08.30 (03.00 GMT)
The Big Picture
This is the last opportunity for the two teams to play one-dayers in Indian conditions, before the World Cup. In that regard, this is an important series for them to get their combinations right, ahead of the big tournament.
India's stand-in captain, Gautam Gambhir, and Suresh Raina will want some runs for themselves, but it's the comeback of Yusuf Pathan that will be closely monitored. He was touted to be the answer to India's search for a big-hitting allrounder in the lower order in ODIs, but never quite managed to replicate his IPL success on the international stage. And later, even in the IPL, his weakness against short-pitched deliveries was exposed. He was released from the ODI squad and has now returned after scoring some big runs in the domestic circuit. All eyes will be on him as he could be a tremendous asset, considering the World Cup is in the subcontinent. But does he have the game to do it? This New Zealand series will let us know. It will also be an important series for R Ashwin, the offspinner.
Usually, teams sport a settled side in Tests and experiment with young players in the ODI team. New Zealand does the opposite. Right from the John Bracewell-era they have been a better ODI outfit than a Test one and have an experienced squad for this series. Six of the seven replacements, that include the likes of Scott Styris, Daryl Tuffey, and Kyle Mills, are in their 30s. Jamie How, 29, who had a pretty decent outing in the Champions League held in South Africa in September, makes a comeback after nearly two years. New Zealand started the Test series short of confidence but ended it with enhanced reputations.
Form guide(most recent first)
New Zealand: LLLLL
Watch out for...Ross Taylor had a pretty average Test series. He got starts but rarely carried on. He has the game to turn it around quickly and he will be the key player in the middle-order in the absence of Jesse Ryder.
Ashwin has impressed many with his performances in pressure situations in the IPLs. It was a puzzle why his IPL captain MS Dhoni hasn't given him more breaks in the national team. Ashwin's time seems to have come now. Can he capitalise? He has the carom-ball and several other variations, but does he have the discipline over his stock ball?
Pitch and conditions
This will be the last international game to be played at the Nehru Stadium in Guwahati as the Assam Cricket Association is building a new ground on the outskirts of the city, which will host all future international games. The curator Sunil Barua copped a lot of criticism after the last ODI played on the ground, when a dicey pitch let Australia dismiss India for 170. "This is the best wicket I've ever made. It will suit batting," Barua said this week. "All I can say is it will be a lively and sporting wicket. There will be a good total if a team bats the full quota of overs." Barua said that he had given the pitch a top-dressing with special clay collected from outside to ensure less wear and tear. Dew is likely to play a role as there will be an 8.30 am start.
James Franklin has replaced Jesse Ryder and Ashish Nehra, who cleared a fitness test, was brought in for Praveen Kumar, who is suffering from fever. There is a question mark over Brendon McCullum, though; though Vettori said he'd keep wickets if fit, the player himself, in a newspaper column, said his back was "not too good" and "it would be sensible to give Sunday's game a miss".
New Zealand (probable): 1 Jamie How, 2 Brendon McCullum, 3 Martin Guptill, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Scott Styris, 6 Kane Williamson, 7 Daniel Vettori (capt), 8 James Franklin/Nathan McCullum, 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Daryl Tuffey/Andy McKay
India (probable): 1 M Vijay, 2 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Yusuf Pathan 7 Saurabh Tiwary, 8 Wriddiman Saha (wk), 9 R Ashwin, 10 Vinay Kumar/Munaf Patel, 11 Ashish Nehra.
Stats and trivia
- Scott Styris is one of the seven New Zealand batsmen to have scored over 4000 runs in ODIs.
- New Zealand have won only six out of their 16 completed games in 2010, and have lost their last six consecutive games.
- Nehra averages 30.52 in the ODIs but does a lot better against New Zealand against whom he averages 22.47 from 16 games. His economy-rate too climbs down to 3.87 (his career rate is 5.12)
"Honestly I'm not thinking about the World Cup at the moment. I don't want to lose focus and don't want to think much. The idea is to stay pressure-free. My job now is to perform in the first two matches."
Wriddhiman Saha wants to stay in the now
"Bangladesh was a pretty disappointing series. We are looking to take things forward. We want to perform as we should and hopefully come out with a series victory. For me, I want to cement the allrounder's spot."
Nathan McCullum states his and team's goals
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo