London: Armed with pedigree, personnel and form, World Cup favourites India will look to hit the ground running when they face New Zealand in their opening warm-up game of the World Cup here Saturday.
However, with India yet to clear the haze of confusion over the No.4 position, it will be much more than a ritual of allowing one top-order batsman after another – behemoths in their own right – a hit in the middle.
The outing at the Kennigton Oval will go beyond experimenting with their highly skilled bowling attack, and quite a bit of focus will be on KL Rahul and Vijay Shankar, contenders for the No.4 slot.
Virat Kohli’s men, second behind England in ODI rankings, will start the tournament among the favourites alongside the host nation and defending champions Australia. They begin their campaign in tournament proper against South Africa in Southampton, June 5, but India will get their first feel of the mega event in the iconic British capital. India won the Cup in 1983 and 2011.
In Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan as openers followed by Virat Kohli, India have one of the finest and potent top three in the world. Veteran Mahendra Singh Dhoni, all-rounder Kedar Jadhav and the big-hitting Hardik Pandya provide depth to the line-up. It is doubtful whether Jadhav will play as he is still recovering from an injury.
Opponents will observe the ability of India’s seamers to exploit the conditions, which could be the most important factor going ahead. Jasprit Bumrah, the top-ranked ODI bowler in the world, leads the pace battery alongside Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik.
Wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal add variety to India’s attack, and Kohli sees them playing an influential role in the coming weeks.
Kohli has expressed confidence in his side’s ability to live up to the billing, while his counterpart Kane Williamson also expressed how pleased he was to have the squad back together, with New Zealand having last played, ODI on February 19 against Bangladesh.
“It’s been great get together for the last few days. We’ve not played together for a couple of months but we’re not the only ones in that boat. The guys are excited to be back in camp which is really refreshing, and we’re looking forward to the challenges that we have got coming up,” Williamson had said at the Captain’s meet.