Bangalore: An unassailable lead in hand, the rampaging Indian cricket team will now push for a series whitewash when it takes on a grossly mismatched New Zealand in the inconsequential fourth cricket one-dayer of the five-match rubber here on Tuesday.
Stand-in skipper Gautam Gambhir has led from the front with back-to-back centuries to inflict one of the worst series defeats on the visitors in the two countries’ bilateral history which dates back to 1975-76.
The second string team’s exemplary performance in the absence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh has also given a boost to the side’s World Cup aspirations.
The young players such as Virat Kohli, Murali Vijay and Saurabh Tiwary have made an impact and would have impressed regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni just a couple of months ahead of the World Cup being hosted in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Chairman of the natiolnal selection panel, Krish Srikkanth, said the youngsters have done well for themselves and their performance has shown that team’s World Cup preparations are going according to the plan.
“Youngsters in the team have proved that the bench strength is good. It is important that we keep winning all our matches up to end of the World Cup,” Srikkanth said ahead of the match.
“Overall, I am confident that the players will perform to their potential and keep the momentum. I am glad that the preparation for the World Cup is on the right track,” he said.
As for Tuesday’s match, the Indian players are an upbeat lot and would be looking to keep the momentum going for a whitewash.
Despite being a second-string side, the Indians have proved themselves better on all counts against a short-of-confidence New Zealand, which came here after being hammered 0-4 by minnows Bangladesh.
The Indian line-up has not exactly missed the dashing Virender Sehwag or the reliable Sachin Tendulkar as the likes Virat Kohli have stepped in effortlessely against a rather ineffective Kiwi attack.
Kohli, who has been good nick in the domestic circuit, has been solid so far along with Murali Vijay.
The Indian bowling has been spearheaded well by senior pacer Zaheer Khan along with the spinners. Young off-spinner R Ashwin has, in fact, managed to make quite an impact but he has to be more economical in the middle overs.
The Kiwis, on the other hand, have been struggling and skipper Daniel vettori has to do a lot of head-scratching to find a way out of the slump that has gripped the team after a fighting performance in the Test series.
Vettori and his men would be desperate to regain confidence which has been dented severely by three defeats on the trot.
The key to it is a solid batting performance and the visitors will look towards Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum to give them the rare crackling start. Ross Taylor and Scott Styris can consolidate from there on.
Kiwi new ball bowlers Kyle Mills and Andy McKay and one-change pacer James Franklin have the ability to disturb any combination along with Vettori but the quartet has so far struggled on pitches which have always been a batsman’s delight.
India: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Saurab Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Parthiv Patel (wk), R Ashwin, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja and Rohit Sharma.
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (Capt), Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Jamie How, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Scott Styris, Gareth Hopkins (wk), Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Andy McKay, James Franklin and Grant Elliott.
Hours of play: 2.30 pm to 6.00 pm, 6.40 pm to close of play.