Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Start time 14.00 local (01.00 GMT)
Gautam Gambhir is likely to bat at No 3 in Napier
The Big Picture
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was confident his young outfit would learn from the mistakes that cost them the first Twenty20 international in Christchurch. However, they didn't learn quickly enough, and the upshot was a 2-0 defeat for the world champions. Now they are faced with the challenge of adapting to the 50-over format in conditions their batsmen haven't fully come to grips with yet and to counter a tenacious opponent expert in exploiting home advantage. From India's point of view it's vital they hit the ground running at McLean Park.
India's opening combination of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag has played a pivotal role in their one-day success in 2008 but Gambhir has struggled in New Zealand. He was over-aggressive in the first Twenty20 international and failed to find his rhythm despite spending time at the crease in the second. The openers' failure to provide substantial starts has deprived the middle-order of the momentum they have become accustomed to. However, that partnership will be split in Napier when Sachin Tendulkar returns to open with Sehwag, Gambir dropping down the order. Tendulkar's return, though, means India will have one opener who is playing his first game of the tour, and a No. 3 yet to find form.
New Zealand are quietly confident after their upset win in the Twenty20s. Their fast bowlers provided early breakthroughs and the pressure was increased by Daniel Vettori, who was able to restrict a strong middle-order. They have also been bolstered by the recovery of the injured Kyle Mills, who will take the new ball and also provide depth to the batting line-up. However, their coach Andy Moles still called India the favourites whom New Zealand would "respect but not be scared" of. They have no reason to be scared, after running Australia extremely close in the drawn Chappell-Hadlee Series earlier in the month.
ODI form guide (last five matches, most recent first)
India - LWWWW
New Zealand - NLLWW
Watch out for ...
New Zealand's top order: India's bowlers managed to take only eight wickets in the two Twenty20 internationals despite the new ball swinging and seaming under lights. On both occasions, New Zealand's top order approached their targets with a definite plan. The momentum was provided by Jesse Ryder, Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor while Brendon McCullum batted steadily through the innings and scored match-winning half-centuries. McCullum's innings in the two games was in stark contrast to his usual aggressive approach but he had the backing of both his captain and coach. "He is maturing as a player, is playing for the situation and when he's playing well at the top of the order with Jesse [Ryder], then Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor, we're certainly starting to get a pretty formidable top four," said Moles.
Sachin Tendulkar: It was in New Zealand that Tendulkar opened for the first time in one-day internationals, scoring 82 off 49 balls at Eden Park in 1994. He's since changed as a batsman and his ODI appearances are less frequent but his presence still gives the batting line-up considerable muscle. Tendulkar's three innings in Sri Lanka were cut short by poor lbw decisions and he has had no match practice to adjust to the seam and bounce of New Zealand's pitches going into tomorrow's game.
New Zealand have named a 12-man squad for the first three ODIs and ten of them are certainties to play. The top six that played the Twenty20 international will remain the same but medium-pace allrounder Grant Elliott will replace Nathan McCullum at No 7. Mills, who took nine wickets at 20 each in Australia, comes back from injury which means Ian Butler and Tim Southee will compete for a spot.
New Zealand: 1 Jesse Ryder, 2 Brendon McCullum (wk), 3 Martin Guptill, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Jacob Oram, 6 Neil Broom, 7 Grant Elliott, 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Ian Bulter/Tim Southee, 11 Iain O'Brien.
Ishant Sharma has been all but ruled out of the first ODI because of a shoulder injury sustained during the second Twenty20 international. "We are thinking of giving Ishant rest so that he can be available for the whole series rather than play him at 70-80% fitness," Dhoni said. His spot will be taken by either Praveen Kumar or Munaf Patel. The only other change will be Tendulkar, who takes Ravindra Jadeja's spot from the Twenty20 line-up.
India: 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Mahendra Singh Dhoni, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Praveen Kumar/Munaf Patel, 11 Zaheer Khan.
Pitch & conditions
Napier was warm on the eve of the match but there are showers forecast for Tuesday. The pitch at McLean Park "looked outstanding", according to Vettori, who expected it to be full of runs. "I think traditionally around 280-300 is a par score so we have to work on that," Vettori said. "If a team can restrict the other team to under 300, like the West Indies game the last time here, you're in with a good chance."
New Zealand have won 18 won ODIs, lost nine and tied two matches in Napier. However, their win-loss record at the venue since 2005 is 3-3. India have only won one out of four at this ground. India have a poor record in New Zealand, winning only nine matches out of 30. Against New Zealand they've won seven and lost 16, including six of the last eight. Among countries where they've played at least five games, only in the West Indies do they have a poorer win-loss ratio. In 11 day-night games at McLean Park, six have been won by the team chasing, and only three by the side batting first. Tendulkar has 16,440 ODI runs, 6765 more than New Zealand's 12 players together. Taylor averages 136.50 in Napier, where he's scored 273 runs in five innings at a strike-rate of 95.
"The teams are pretty closely ranked at No. 3 and No. 4. India have been playing really well, but our home conditions suit us. So it's going to be a pretty close series. I'd like to think we can win the series but I also know we will have to play some of our best cricket for that."
Vettori on the eve of the first one-dayer
"We are confident about each and every game. Even if we had won the last game, it wouldn't have made a difference. We have to keep repeating the good work in every game of cricket."
Dhoni says India are confident despite the defeats in the Twenty20 internationals
George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo