Aggressive NZ aim to push India off top
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Start time 1400 local (0100 GMT)
In Napier, New Zealand made it clear that they were going to go hard at India. It's a series they have waited long for, quite nervously too, given the BCCI's reluctance to honour the FTP and accountability to none. Now that it has arrived, New Zealand are out to make full use of the shortened version of the tour.
It is shaping up to be an evenly matched series: for all their aggression with the bat and the ball, and the brilliance in the field, New Zealand will still need their best at all times to get better of India, as was evident from how Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni nearly won a lost match all on their own. There was a lot of back and forth in the first ODI with both sides showing tenacity at various points of the match. If they can keep that up for over the next 10 days, we might be in for a memorable ODI series.
After the Napier win, Brendon McCullum and Mitchell McClenaghan, the bowler who did the most damage, have both said they were glad at how the bouncers worked against India - four specialist batsmen fell pulling - and that there will be no let-up despite the absence of Adam Milne, who consistently bowled around 150kmph in his first spell. Hamilton, however, might be the closest to home for India. It has slowed down recently, has been helping spinners, has short boundaries, and should bring India good memories of comfortable wins in both the Test and the ODI on their last trip to New Zealand.
There is added incentive for India to win in Hamilton. If they don't, they will momentarily lose their No.1 ranking to Australia.
New Zealand WLWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
McClenaghan is all set to become the second-fastest man to 50 ODI wickets. He currently has 47 in 19 games; Ajantha Mendis reached 50 in 19 ODIs. It's McClenaghan's strike rate, though, that is stunning. He gets a wicket every 20.4 balls. The next-best strike rate for anyone who has taken a minimum of 47 wickets is 27.1. It's McClenaghan's ability to take wickets, never mind the runs he might concede, that New Zealand will look forward to.
Interestingly, and some might be stunned by this, among Indian bowlers who have taken a minimum of 50 wickets, the best strike rate belongs to Ishant Sharma. His economy rate of 5.7 is similar to McClenaghan's 5.8, but Ishant doesn't compensate enough with a strike rate of 32.9, which happens to be India's best, though. As usual, Ishant, the trooper that he is, will keep fighting with the heat on him. Despite bowling that superb last over, Ishant was the worst bowler in the first ODI, going at eight an over. It won't be long before India look past the spirit of Ishant. He needs a big performance some time soon.
New Zealand have been hit by the injury to Milne, and they are almost certain to bring in Kyle Mills.
New Zealand: 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Jesse Ryder, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Brendon McCullum (capt.), 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Nathan McCullum, 9. Kyle Mills, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan
India don't discuss their XI before a match, but there are two places that will be debated: Suresh Raina's and Ishant's. The recent slowness of Seddon Park should give the two spinners another go. Unless India make an extremely bold move of playing Stuart Binny ahead of a specialist batsman or bowler, it is unlikely he is getting his debut here.
India (possible) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina/Ambati Rayudu, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Ajinkya Rahane, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Pitch and conditions
The groundsman Karl Johnson is not sure why it is happening, but Seddon Park is observing a recent trend of slowness and assistance for spinners. However, it has rained heavily on the two days leading into the match so there could be something in there for the quicks too. It is going to be interesting to observe the pitch's behaviour, especially if it is overcast on match day too.
Stats and trivia
- R Ashwin has taken only one wicket in his last 80 overs in international cricket.
- The Napier win was New Zealand's first in the last seven attempts against India.
- New Zealand have won only one of their last five ODIs at Seddon Park.
"One thing I learnt in South Africa was when you are batting, whatever you are doing, you need to commit to it fully. Because people are bowling at you at 140-145 kph, there is not much time to decide and think later on, after the ball is bowled. Whatever you want to do, you got to read the length and commit to the shot. If you want to leave the ball, you have got to commit to that."
Virat Kohli on one of the challenges of facing quality fast bowling
"We're not going to be nice to them, we're going to get in their face and let them know that we're here and we're going to put our mark on the build-up to the World Cup."
Mitchell McClenaghan promises more aggression
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo