Containing Virat Kohli in the first 15 deliveries and attacking Rohit straight up will be key to New Zealand gaining advantage over India, when the teams contest in a five-match ODI series in February next year, according to former New Zealand coach Mike Hesson.
India's top-order has shown superiority in the shorter formats, and they proved it again during the recently-concluded home series against West Indies. Kohli and Rohit in particular have been instrumental in setting up and chasing down big targets over the last few years, especially at home.
However, Hesson felt both batsmen could be challenged in swinging conditions in New Zealand, although the host bowlers will have to work hard, especially against Kohli. "The key thing is if you can contain Virat Kohli in the first 10-15 balls where he has to take some risks to get his innings underway then that will provide opportunities," Hesson told ESPNcricinfo. "How you do that is dependent on the surface. But, if we found a magic formula, I'm sure it would be circulated all around the world very quickly."
Hesson also warned that New Zealand would need to have plans for Rohit. "Rohit Sharma is in incredibly good form at the moment and has been for a long time. The thing with Rohit is that once he is in, once he gets himself set, he generally dictates the outcome of the game. It's making sure that the new-ball bowlers can attack Rohit early on whether it'll be with swing or with some other variations wide outside the crease or whatever."
New Zealand had blanked out India 4-0 at home in 2014 in an ODI series, which also featured a tie in Auckland. Hesson, the then coach, predicted a 3-2 series score in favour of the home team for the upcoming series. "I think it was 4-0 last time with a tie. I think it'll be 3-2 [this time]… it's going to be tight… I think Black Caps 3-2."
New Zealand are currently the third-ranked ODI side, one behind India, but Hesson pointed out that Kane Williamson's men would need to quickly sort out a couple of key issues for them to arrive at next year's World Cup as favourites.
"I think there are a couple pieces of the puzzle the Black Caps would be keen to find out before the World Cup. Who is the allrounder? Who provides that balance? A lot of options there. From a bowling point of view, who's going to take wickets in the middle overs when it's flat? I think if they can get that sorted then the side's looking very good."