Mumbai: On a roll, after consecutive series wins against Sri Lanka and Australia, a confident India will aim to hunt New Zealand when they face-off in the opener of the three-match One-day International (ODI) series at the Wankhede Stadium here on Sunday.
The Virat Kohli-led side will also have one eye on reclaiming the top spot in the ICC ODI rankings after being pushed to the second position by South Africa.
India and South Africa have identical 120 ratings against their name, but the men-in-blue are placed second on the basis of the decimal points.
Going into the first ODI against the Kiwis, India will once again bank on their strong batting form led by the skipper and the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
With the opening conundrum sorted and Kohli settled at No.3, it will be interesting to see who takes the No.4 spot in the line-up.
Recently, India has experimented a number of youngsters including all-rounder Hardik Pandya, Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav for the slot, which serves as a critical link between the top and lower middle-order.
While Pandya shone with a match-winning unbeaten 78 against Australia at first go, Pandey has got the longest run of the lot despite his unflattering numbers and especially with an in-form Dinesh Karthik recalled for this series, it will be interesting to see who gets to bat at No.4.
The bowling department will look a settled unit with limited overs specialists — Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah — cementing their places.
Rookie Shardul Thakur finds himself in the team as much for the rotation policy as for his sharp form in the recently concluded ‘A’ series against New Zealand.
But all eyes will be on India’s newfound wristspin twins — Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav — who made life difficult for the Aussies in the recently concluded series.
They will surely pose a challenge for the Kiwis, given their past record against Indian spinners.
On the other hand, New Zealand will hope the experienced Ross Taylor and skipper Kane Williamson to shoulder the responsibility in the batting department, which also includes the likes of Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, and Colin Munro.
Latham and Taylor started the tour with brilliant centuries in the practice tie against the Board President’s XI and looks confident going into the series opener.
Pace bowling wise though, New Zealand seem settled with Trent Boult having already picked a five-fer in the first practice game. Tim Southee and Adam Milne form the rest of the battery while Matt Henry joins them over from the ‘A’ tour.
Left-armer Mitchell Santner will be the first-choice spinner while De Grandhomme’s utility with the ball could be reduced too if Munro chips in with a few useful seam-ups.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wicket-keeper), Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Shardul Thakur.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Martin Guptill, Colin de Grandhomme, Ross Taylor, Trent Boult, Matt Henry, Tom Latham (wicket-keeper), Adam Milne, Ish Sodhi, Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, George Worker.