Hyderabad: Having stirred a debate after being left out despite his world record double hundred, Ishan Kishan is expected to be back in the playing eleven, albeit in a different batting position, when India face a stern test against New Zealand in the three-match ODI series, beginning here Wednesday.
Kishan had to sit out of the Sri Lanka series despite scoring the fastest double hundred in the history of ODIs, against Bangladesh in the preceding series.
Shubman Gill, who was rewarded for his consistency and picked ahead of Ishan to open alongside skipper Rohit Sharma, made the most of the opportunities with scores of 70, 21 and 116 in the Sri Lanka series.
No changes are expected to the opening combination against the Black Caps but KL Rahul’s unavailability due to personal reasons opens up a slot for Kishan as he is also expected to keep wickets.
Kishan has batted in the middle-order thrice in the 10 ODIs he has played, therefore the adjustment should not be an issue.
KS Bharat, who is the second wicketkeeper in the squad, is likely to warm the bench as he is more of a cover in Rahul’s absence.
In a World Cup year, every game is significant and India would aim to build on the gains from the Sri Lanka series though the performance of their opponents was underwhelming to say the least.
The big takeaways for India from the Sri Lanka series was the performance of the top three and Mohammed Siraj’s ability to pick up wickets with the new ball.
Like Gill and Virat Kohli, Rohit also looked in sublime touch with scores of 83 and 42 but would like to get a big hundred which has also eluded him for some time now.
Kohli though is back to scoring hundreds at will and looks hungrier for runs more than ever, which should set the alarm bells ringing in the New Zealand camp.
Shreyas’ absence could be boon for ‘SKY’
While he was one of India’s steady batters in ODIs in 2022, Shreyas Iyer failed to convert his starts in three games as scores of 28, 28 and 38 would suggest.
If Iyer is unable to play any part in the series due to a reported back issue, the indomitable Suryakumar Yadav will get at least three chances to cement his place in the side. Surya and Hardik Pandya in the middle order will surely add firepower at the back-end.
Will Kul-Cha be back together or Shahbaz gets a look-in
Besides Rahul, Axar Patel has also been given a break for the series, and his like- for-like replacement in the eleven could be Shahbaz Ahmed.
It remains to be seen if the team management gives Shahbaz a go or bring in Washington Sundar, who could be handy against the left-handers in the New Zealand camp.
India have so far preferred to play a finger and wrist spinner each in the playing eleven, leaving them to choose between Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who provided the much needed wickets in the middle overs in the two games against Sri Lanka.
Whether Kuldeep and Chahal could be played together like it used to happen five years back or the team management decides otherwise is there to be seen.
Chahal did not play after the first ODI due to a sore shoulder but he should be available for selection for the series-opener.
Siraj, Mohammad Shami and Umran Malik will be the likely specialist pacers in the team with Hardik Pandya being the all-rounder.
New Zealand strong enough even without Williamson
Though New Zealand don’t have the services of star players Kane Williamson and Tim Southee for the series, the hosts will have to be at their best to better the visitors. Stand-in-captain Tom Latham played a blinder the last time the two teams met in an ODI.
The team is coming from a high of a series against Pakistan in Karachi. Opener Finn Allen, who was not at his destructive best in Karachi, would be looking to take the attack to the India bowlers.
The hosts need to find a way to stop the belligerent Glenn Phillips who single-handely won New Zealand the decider against Pakistan despite being half-fit.
India: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan (wk), Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, KS Bharat (wk), Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Washington Sundar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Shardul Thakur, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Md Shami, Md Siraj, Umran Malik.
New Zealand: Tom Latham (captain), Finn Allen, Doug Bracewell, Michael Bracewell, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Jacob Duffy, Lockie Ferguson, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Henry Shipley, Ish Sodhi, Blair Tickner.
Match starts 1.30 IST.