JAIPUR: Young Virat Kohli will be the cynosure of all eyes as a new-look India seek to continue the team’s dominating run at home in the current calendar when they take on New Zealand in the second one-dayer on Wednesday.
In the absence of the creme de la creme of Indian cricket, the dashing right-hander from Delhi gave enough indication of why he is the one to look for in future with a match-winning century in the opening match in Guwahati.
With regular stars such as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh being rested for the first two one-dayers, Kohli stole the limelight with a fine hundred that paved the way for India’s 40-run win in the series opener.
The young Kohli, going through a dream run having scored two back-to-back tons in Ranji Trophy apart from his second successive ODI century, would be keen to bat the way he has been doing of late at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium.
India have a good record at this venue winning six out of 10 matches, the last being a humdinger against South Africa in February when the hosts won by one run.
India have lost just one match — against South Africa on February 27 — in the two series it has played at home in 2010.
India won the series against the Proteas 2-1 and pipped Australia 1-0 in the rain-hit series in October.
Going into the second one-dayer against the Kiwis, what would also keep the momentum in India’s favour, is that both Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum are still doubtful starters for tomorrow’s match.
The New Zealand skipper is suffering from a sore back, after shouldering the bulk of bowling responsibilities in the three-match Test series, and McCullum is also down with a similar condition.
Runs from Yuvraj Singh’s blade in the first match were also a welcome sight for the Indian camp.
The southpaw, who was recently demoted to contract B by the BCCI, was not at his flamboyant best but still managed to score 42 valuable runs, often employing the sweep against the slow bowlers to good effect.
Stand-in captain Gautam Gambhir, coming on the back of a decent Test series, looked solid as long as he was there at the crease in the first match.
And, with this being the last home series before the upcoming World Cup, the left-hander would be keen to spend as much time in the middle as possible.
Keeping the scoreboard ticking during powerplays and accelerating in the death were areas of concern in the first match and are something the hosts would like to improve upon in the next match.
India nearly gave it all away by losing their last six wickets for just 26 runs after Kohli, in the company of Yuvraj, laid a solid platform.
A cameo from Yusuf Pathan down the order, however, helped the hosts set New Zealand a challenging target.
As far as bowling is concerned, India, like in the first match, would again look to their spinners, especially Ravichandran Ashwin to stem the flow of runs in the middle overs on a strip that can be called more than decent.
The Chennai Super Kings off-spinner bowled beautifully inside the powerplays and picked up three important wickets, including that of Ross Taylor who top-scored for the visitors with a well-compiled 66.
S Sreesanth deserves special mention for picking up three wickets, but Ashwin and Yuvraj’s contributions with ball were no less important in the context of the match.
Apart from team composition and form, what could play a crucial role is the dew factor. So, the team winning the toss would, in all probability, opt to bowl first as gripping the ball becomes difficult when the dew comes into play in the second session, at this time of the year.
For New Zealand, it was a case of so near yet so far in the series opener. The Kiwis were in with a chance at one stage but the wicket of stand-in skipper Taylor at a crucial juncture, seemed to have changed the course of the match.
It was no surprise that Taylor later regretted his shot selection. Nothing would boost the visitors more than the return of Vettori and McCullum, but if today’s net session was any indication, the two still looks doubtful.
The team management though, boosted by the appointment of former England coach Duncan Fletcher as its full-time coaching consultant, has its fingers crossed.
Fletcher, who has just joined the squad, has been hired by New Zealand Cricket (NZC) in a bid to ‘keep the environment fresh’ within the team.
India: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Saurabh Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Yusuf Pathan, Sreesanth, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, R Vinay Kumar and Ravichandran Ashwin
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (captain), Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Gareth Hopkins (wk), Jamie How, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Andy McKay, Kyle Mills, James Franklin, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Daryl Tuffey, Kane Williamson.
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This post was submitted by Mudit Agrawal.
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