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India vs New Zealand: World Cup Preps on Mind As India Face Black Caps in T20 Series

India vs New Zealand: World Cup Preps on Mind As India Face Black Caps in T20 Series

There isn't an immediate 'T20' context to the series, but both sides will still try to add some 50-over context to proceedings.

It’s been three and a half months since the Indian team left home for a long tour of Australia and New Zealand. Over the period of time, they’ve conquered new territories and created history, the Test series win in Australia being the biggest of them all. Now, it’s time to end it with a three-match Twenty20 International series against New Zealand beginning with the first game on Wednesday in Wellington.

It’s a fitting way to end the tour – both sides can have some fun without worrying too much about the results, for the next T20 World Cup is quite a distance away.

There isn’t an immediate ‘T20’ context to the series, but both sides will still try to add some 50-over context to proceedings. There aren’t too many international matches left before the World Cup in June; apart from the three T20Is now, India have only two more T20Is and five ODIs against Australia at home. New Zealand, meanwhile, have three ODIs and three Tests against Bangladesh to figure out their ideal combination for the World Cup. Both sides will look to maximise every international exposure that comes its way, thus adding some context to the T20Is.

India’s squad for the World Cup is nearly settled. Now it’s all about fine-tuning the combinations, while adding new options that might come of use if needed. Someone like Rishabh Pant, who was left out of the ODIs in Australia and New Zealand, will want to make a mark and add to the voices that call for his inclusion. Dinesh Karthik too will be keen to hold on to his spot as the second wicket-keeper. It was his good form in the T20Is in Australia that earned him a recall to the ODI squad, so he’ll know the context of the series more than anyone else.

This series also sees the return of MS Dhoni to the T20I fold. When he was left out of the T20I squads for the home series against Windies and the T20Is in Australia, it seemed unlikely that he’d make a return to the format so soon. Good performances in the ODIs in Australia and New Zealand means there won’t be much pressure on him, so it’s all about having a hit and being game-ready.

It helps that Virat Kohli is resting. India have an able captain in Rohit Sharma, and it also opens up a spot for a youngster. The likes of Shubman Gill, Krunal Pandya and Vijay Shankar will be hoping to make a mark if a chance comes their way.

India’s bowling heavily depends on the spin twins – Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. They’ve already spun a web around New Zealand’s batsmen, but the hosts will sense a weakness in the pace unit. Bhuvneshwar Kumar leads the attack but in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, India will want the inexperienced Siddarth Kaul and Khaleel Ahmed to step up. It’s also a chance for the duo to put their names up for the World Cup selection, in case an opening comes their way.

India come to the series with T20I form on their back as well. They drew the T20 series in Australia after losing the first game; they could have won it had rain not played spoilsport in the second game.

New Zealand have been in mixed T20 form coming into this series. They beat Sri Lanka in a one-off T20I at home, but were whitewashed by Pakistan in UAE prior to that.

Results hardly matter, though, and New Zealand too will want to keep their players in form with an eye on the World Cup.

For that, they’ll have to play spin better. Kuldeep and Chahal will pose a threat like they did in the ODIs, unless India decide to rest one of the two and test new combinations. The challenge should be slightly easier in T20s, and the hosts will also be relieved that India doesn’t have someone like Shami to support Bhuvneshwar. It’s their best chance to find success against India in this tour.

New Zealand will be without Martin Guptill, who has been ruled out due to injury. All-rounder Daryl Mitchell and pacer Blair Tickner have earned maiden call-ups. The batting will revolve around Colin Munro, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, while the all-rounders Colin de Grandhomme and James Neesham will provide the finishing touches.

The hosts will also be without their best bowler in the ODIs, Trent Boult. The left-arm pacer has been rested as part of his workload management. They still have an experienced pacer in Tim Southee along with Lockie Ferguson. Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi form an able spin attack.

Whichever way the series goes, both sides will want to come out with pointers with the World Cup in mind. India in particular will want to end their long, hectic tour on a memorable note.


New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Doug Bracewell, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Scott Kuggeleijn, Colin Munro, Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Blair Tickner, James Neesham.

India: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Siddarth Kaul, K Khaleel Ahmed, Shubman Gill, Vijay Shankar, Hardik Pandya.