Ravi Shastri captained India the last time international cricket came to Thiruvananthapuram. It was a forgettable evening for India fans in football country as Phil Simmons and Gordon Greenidge orchestrated a nine-wicket West Indies win. Virat Kohli, who turned 29 on Sunday, wasn't even born then. Now the Shastri-Kohli combine will have to plot hard, particularly on the batting front, to prevent New Zealand from winning their first-ever proper series, across formats, on Indian shores.
New Zealand could claim the 2012 T20I series was theirs, but that was reduced to a one-off contest in Chennai because a cyclonic depression washed out the first game in Visakhapatnam. Now, there's the small matter of hoping the receding monsoons, which have caused intermittent showers around Kerala, don't cast a spell on Tuesday evening.
In that 2012 Chennai game, MS Dhoni, faced with having to get 13 off the last over, couldn't pull India past the mark. He was at his peak then. Perhaps not so now, as his struggle to bring out the big shots on demand has opened up debate over his batting position, and even his place in the side. Does he belong, or is it time to make way? A definitive answer is elusive just yet, but could be in the making, maybe even as early as Tuesday provided there's a full game.
In Delhi, New Zealand dropped three catches. It cost them the match and their No. 1 ranking. In Rajkot, India were the generous hosts, reprieving Colin Munro four times and watching him wallop his second T20I century of the year, which set the game up for spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner. In Thiruvananthapuram, where the weather is entirely different to the dry heat of Rajkot or the early winter chill of Delhi, New Zealand's fitness will be tested by near-100% humidity. Are they hydrated enough to go one better after failing in successive deciders in India?
India: LWLWW (completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand: WLLWW
In the spotlight
MS Dhoni scored 49 off 37 balls in Rajkot, and while the bare numbers look impressive, they don't tell the whole story. Coming in at No. 6 with India needing 130 off 65 balls, he pushed and prodded his way to 26 off 26 before heaving a couple of big blows when the match was out of bounds. VVS Laxman, for one, believes it is time to look beyond Dhoni and groom a younger wicketkeeper-batsman in the shortest format. While his position isn't under immediate threat yet, it remains to be seen if he will continue to bat at No. 6.
Colin de Grandhomme came to India with the reputation of being a useful medium-pacer who can provide plenty of lower-order muscle. On this tour, save for one game in Pune where he made 41, he hasn't managed to showcase his talent in either area. In the first T20I, he was out for a golden duck and conceded 34 off three wicketless overs. In Rajkot, Williamson preferred Munro's medium-pace to de Grandhomme's, which meant he only got the one over.
Mohammed Siraj's international initiation didn't quite go to plan in Rajkot, where he conceded 53 in his four overs. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah conceding only 52 off their eight overs and with Hardik Pandya as a third seam option, India could look at replacing Siraj with Kuldeep Yadav, who hasn't featured since the first ODI in Mumbai.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Tom Latham was left out of the Rajkot game despite having been one of New Zealand's finds of the tour, despite having been given a new role in the middle order. While there may not be a reason to make a change to a winning XI, barring injury, they could consider bringing Latham back.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Colin Munro, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Tom Bruce, 5 Glenn Phillips (wk), 6 Henry Nicholls, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Ish Sodhi, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Adam Milne
Pitch and conditions
A brand-new venue and a brand-new surface. The organisers claim scores of 180-plus were made in both innings of a warm-up game a fortnight ago. What teams will be mindful of, though, is the sapping heat and humidity, and the possibility of rain and a truncated game. The Kerala Cricket Association has invested in a modern drainage system and has three Super Soppers should it get to that.
Stats and trivia
- New Zealand haven't lost a bilateral T20I series of two or more matches in their last eight series.
- Sodhi has an economy of 5.66 against India, the best ever in T20Is among spinners who have bowled at least 10 overs against them.
- Three of India's four failed T20I chases at home have come against New Zealand
- Greenfield Stadium becomes the 19th venue to host a T20I in India
"I never felt that kind of a pressure that we play five batsmen and Hardik Pandya. Whatever the situation or combination we are given, we have to go according to that."
India fast bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar
"It's one exciting thing for us that we've taken them to the decider for the last two series now. They played well in Kanpur under a little bit of pressure as well so we still have to turn up tomorrow and play the best we can and perform our roles."
New Zealand allrounder Mitchell Santner
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo