New-look India look to nail Kiwis in ODI series
Guwahati: The Test series won and senior members including skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni given some rest because of injury concerns, a new-look India under Gautam Gambhir will take on a never-say-die New Zealand in a five-ODI series starting here on Sunday.
The series will be India`s last outing in the sub-continent before they begin their campaign in the World Cup.
Thus it will be one last chance for the fringe players to prove their worth before the big summit in February-April next year to be jointly hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
From the Kiwis perspective, Daniel Vettori`s men will look to erase the bitter memories of a 0-4 series loss to Bangladesh by coming down on India heavily.
New Zealanders have the ammunition in the form of an experienced line-up with the likes of Scott Styris, Ross Taylor and the skipper himself, while India will look up to their young bunch.
Besides skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India have rested star players Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh due to injury concerns ahead of the World Cup.
In the absence of Sehwag, Murali Vijay will look to add solidity to the opening slot, while the middle-order will be in the hands of in-form Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and the senior-most member of the side, Yuvraj Singh, who will be the cynosure of all eyes in the series.
Demoted to B contract, the stylish Yuvraj is yet to get back his silken touch and the Punjab batsman will be desperate to come out of the phase and contribute with a winning knock.
In-form Kohli will be the one to watch out for as the Delhi lad is going great guns at all levels of the game.
His career-best 118 in Visakhapatnam -- in the only one-dayer possible during their last series against Australia -- helped India clinch the series 1-0. Kohli carried the momentum to Ranji Trophy as well and struck two back-to-back hundreds against Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
With the World Cup in mind, the selectors have also brought in the devastating Yusuf Pathan who recently had a good domestic season for Baroda both with the bat and ball.
Having got yet another chance to prove his worth before the World Cup, Pathan will have direct competition from Ravindra Jadeja to grab the all-rounder`s spot in the line-up.
This series will also mean a lot to Bengal wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha who is all set for debut tomorrow as the skipper has been given rest.
Having made his Test debut by default (in place of an injured Rohit Sharma), Saha has earned his place in the first two one-dayers and the Test series against South Africa ahead of more experienced Dinesh Karthik.
The diminutive Bengal lad`s skills -- both with the bat and behind the stumps -- will be watched closely.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will look to stand tall against the Kiwi opponents in the absence of Harbhajan and Pragyan Ojha.
The new ball is likely to be shared by S Sreesanth and Ashish Nehra who has been drafted in place of Praveen Kumar --out with fever -- with either R Vinay Kumar or Munaf Patel coming in as first change.
The new skipper Gambhir, who made a return in the Test squad after recovering from a knee injury, has the experience of leading IPL team Delhi Daredevils and the Delhi Ranji side and it will be a test for his leadership qualities in the first two matches that will have a direct bearing on the series.
"I am really excited. It is a dream come true for any player to lead his country, whatever opportunity I will get of leading the team is great. Hopefully, I can do well personally and also as a team. Hopefully, we can win the series," Gambhir said.
Gambhir said his past captaincy experience would be of immense help.
"I`ll try to be relaxed. The experience of captaining Delhi Daredevils and the Delhi Ranji team is always of great help as I`ve seen and handled the ups and downs as a captain.”
"But everyone has different ways and I personally feel it`s all about being instinctive in the middle. Hopefully, I can do well personally and also as a team."
The Black Caps on the other hand are rich on experience, even though they will miss the services of Jesse Ryder who pulled out of the series after suffering from a calf injury.
Ryder, who was New Zealand`s second best batsman after Brendon McCullum aggregating 274 in the just-concluded three Tests, has been replaced by James Franklin even as it is yet to be seen whether he is picked in the final XI.
Following a fantastic Test series that saw him notch a double century (in Hyderabad Test), McCullum will look to lead the batting pack as he is expected to reclaim the gloves from Gareth Hopkins for the one-day series.
The side is also bolstered by veteran Scott Styris while Ross Taylor will look to reinvent his lost form as he looked lackluster in the Tests.
The New Zealand selectors have also included Martin Guptill in the side while the trio of BJ Watling, Shanan Stewart and Hamish Benett who played in their 0-4 loss to Bangladesh have been ignored this time.