Big win over NZ leaves India with tough choices

Chennai: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be happy with the way his batsmen stamped their authority against New Zealand in the warm-up but come Saturday he must make some tough choices before their opening match.

The Indian batting, led by Dhoni`s power hitting, forced New Zealand into submission by piling on a massive total and earned the co-hosts an easy 117-run win in Wednesday`s warm-up game.

But it also brought more food for thought for the Indian team management who have to settle on a middle order before their match against Bangladesh on Saturday.

There is certainly no shortage of in-form, talented candidates for that.

Gautam Gambhir (89), Virat Kohli (59) and Suresh Raina (50) all chipped in with half-centuries in the final warm-up match as India amassed a massive 360 for five from 50 overs, after opting to bat first.

While Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag will continue to open for India, in all probability, followed by Gambhir at number three, India would have to choose between Kohli, Raina, Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan to fill up the remaining places.

On most occasions, India play with a combination of seven batsmen and four bowlers, with the part-time spinners chipping in to fulfill the fifth bowler`s quota.

Yuvraj and Yusuf`s part-time bowling might tilt the scales in their favour and it may eventually boil down between right-handed Kohli and left-handed Raina fighting for one spot.

On Wednesday, Dhoni started cautiously but tore apart the New Zealand bowling once he got set, blasting an unbeaten 108 off just 64 balls, with 11 boundaries and three massive sixes.

Dhoni was happy with his form with the bat.

“In the last few games it seems I have always been in a hurry, but my game is a bit different,” Dhoni said after the match.

“I like spending some time during the initial few deliveries. Most of my good innings have come when I have tried to spend time initially and then tried to stay till the end for the slog overs.”

The loss of openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar early did not prove costly for India as Gambhir and Kohli laid the foundation for the onslaught with a 106-run partnership for the third wicket.

Dhoni and left-hander Raina, who hit Jacob Oram for three sixes in four deliveries, added 124 runs for the fifth wicket. Raina perished after completing a 26-ball half century.

The Indian captain at one point hit seven consecutive boundaries -- five off Oram and two against off-spinner Nathan McCullum -- and made the bowlers pay for drifting on to his pads.

New Zealand started on a positive note in their chase and took the attack to the Indian pacemen but failed to keep the momentum going once the Indian spinners came into action.

The Indian pace attack, without the experienced Zaheer Khan, did not look threatening, and it was left to the spinners to put the brakes on.

Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum added 94 for the opening wicket but New Zealand kept losing wickets at important junctures, making it an impossible chase.

Brendon McCullum`s run out when he started looking threatening did not help either.

Spinners Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla and Yuvraj Singh and left-arm paceman Ashish Nehra all finished with two wickets for India.

Bureau Report

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