India seek balance between experiment and survival in series


AUCKLAND: On this tour of New Zealand, India have suffered their biggest defeat in ODIs – in terms of balls left – and T20Is – in terms of runs they fell short by – but it has unequivocally been an impressive tour for India so far. Before that Hamilton debacle in the ODI came a clinical surge to an unassailable 3-0 lead in the ODI series, and the response to Hamilton was the Wellington ODI, in which India deliberately chose to bat in difficult conditions, overcame them and pulled off an unlikely defence.

All this without the best white-ball bowler in the world, Jasprit Bumrah. Now people want to see how India respond to the Wellington T20I defeat where their bowlers seemed to have a collective off day. There might also be the realisation that they need to play at least one more wicket-taking bowler and compromise a bit of depth in batting. These bilateral T20Is, though, are an opportunity to experiment.

India want to test their bench strength, but now it will have to marry with the need to stay alive in the series. Their bowlers – whoever plays – will be asked to put in a better show and bowl to the plans and the fields.

For the first time during this trip by India, New Zealand are in the lead, and they will want to seal the series in Auckland. They seem to be better suited to the shorter format right now. They seem to have all-round options without necessarily sacrificing one suit or the other. Colin de Grandhomme, for example, wasn’t even required to bowl in Wellington even though one of the bowlers, Scott Kuggeleijin, had a bad day. They will want a repeat in Auckland.

Rohit Sharma won’t like this mini dip in his scores. After a brace of fifties in Mount Maunganui – he looked good for a double in the first of those – Rohit has had scores of 7, 2 and 1. In a way, it is less frustrating to get out without a start rather than wasting one, but Rohit won’t be happy with the nature of his dismissals.

Twice movement got him, and on the third occasion his favourite shot – the pull – landed in the lap of a deep fielder. Watch out for how he responds.

Tim Southee is an unusual player: he is a shoo-in in Tests and T20Is, but out of favour in ODIs. He showed his worth in his first international back with figures of 3 for 17 in his four overs. He will want to continue doing that to push for a return to the ODIs too.

The only change New Zealand might think of is to possibly find a way to include James Neesham. He could replace Kuggeleijn or de Grandhomme.

Pitch and conditions

Eden Park is oddly shaped and a tough ground to defend. This is a ground where last year Australia successfully chased down 244 with seven balls to spare. Chasing 143, New Zealand once got there in 10 overs. Yet nine matches have been won by sides batting first to six by chasing sides. A pleasant day is expected for the game.