India take on depleted Kiwis in tri-series opener
Dambulla: Missing key players and just done with an exhausting drawn Test series, India swiftly shift to the one-day mode as they take on an equally-depleted New Zealand in the opening match of the cricket tri-series.
Also featuring Sri Lanka, the series starts just two days after India drew 1-1 with the hosts in an engrossing Test series.
India will be without in-form batting veteran Sachin Tendulkar and spin spearhead Harbhajan Singh, both of whom have been rested, and injured opener Gautam Gambhir in the series.
Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan remains sidelined with a shoulder injury, which might give a woefully out-of-form Ishant Sharma his first one-day international of the year.
Ashish Nehra will take over the responsibility of leading the attack and on current form, the lanky pacer would be expected to add some zing to the not-so-impressive pace department, which struggled in the Test series.
On the batting front, the series is a chance for off-colour Yuvraj Singh to get over the disappointment of the Test series, in which he flopped in the opening match, missed the second due to flu, and was dropped for the third after his replacement Suresh Raina scored a century on debut.
Virender Sehwag will once again shoulder the responsibility of providing the sort of cracking starts that India have come to expect of him and Gambhir`s absence, Dinesh Karthik will give him company in the opening slot.
A rather volatile mix of batsmen occupy the middle-order in Kohli, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma, who can be destructive while they are on song but their unpredictability can also cost the team dearly.
Young and eager to make a mark, the new-look Indian middle-order has often let the team down with extravagant shots in crunch situations.
The New Zealanders, on the other hand, are in their familiar dark-horses role, more so in the absence of inspirational skipper Daniel Vettori, who has skipped the series to be with his wife for the birth of his second child.
Also missing from the Kiwi line-up is the explosive duo of Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum.
While McCullum has been granted some time off with family by New Zealand Cricket, the temperamental Ryder is nursing an elbow injury.
Sans the three proven match-winners, the Kiwis will have to come up with a superlative effort to make an impact in the series against the sub-continental giants.
Destructive batsman Ross Taylor has been handed the leadership role for the series and it would take a lot for him to inspire an inexperienced squad.
He has started well with morale-boosting wins in the couple of practice matches the team played after landing in the island nation.
But against the Indians, the Kiwis would be looking forward to experienced all-rounder Jacob Oram, vice-captain Kyle Mills and Scott Styris for inspiration.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ashish Nehra, Pragyan Ojha, Saurabh Tiwary.
New Zealand: Ross Taylor (capt), Kyle Mills (vice-capt), Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Gareth Hopkins (wk), Nathan McCullum, Andy McKay, Jacob Oram, Jeetan Patel, Peter Ingram, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Daryl Tuffey, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.