While India have not lost by big margins, a scoreline of 0-3 does not look good for the world champions © Getty Images
By Abhijit Banare
Jan 30, 2014
Just as it was predicted before the series that a world No 1 side will crush an eighth ranked team, history will look at this series where India were humbled by a lowly ranked opponent. But both situations wouldn’t exhibit the fact that New Zealand played as good as they were the No 1 side.
MS Dhoni was outsmarted first by his opponents with their preparation and then by his own fast bowlers. Dhoni appeared furious in his post-match statements over the performance of bowlers who were supposed to thrive in these conditions and have ended up conceding as many runs as they usually did at home.
There has been a pattern to India’s losses and New Zealand’s victories. The Indian openers struggled to give them starts, the middle-order has not been rock-solid and the bowlers have conceded far too many runs. In contrast the Kiwis, who blunted the Indian spinners, were solid in the middle-order and the pace bowling was too good for the Indian batsmen.
New Zealand couldn’t have imagined a better confidence booster in their quest for a World Cup title. The scores show that India haven’t lost the matches by huge margins. But Brendon McCullum’s decision to drop a match-winning all-rounder and a strike bowler in a series-winning match shows confidence in the resources as well as their abilities. Meanwhile the batting has been splendid. Four consecutive half-centuries by Kane Williamson followed by centuries from Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor pretty much sums up the batting performance for the Kiwis.
Another factor which has made a difference and will continue to do so in the final match is the leadership of McCullum. His bowling changes and ability to manage the situation despite finishing off the quota of his strike bowlers early is laudable. McCullum is likely to rest some of his players especially Tim Southee who looked in a bit of discomfort during the match. And considering he is the key bowler for Tests, Southee might get some rest.
India shouldn’t mind making a few more changes in the playing XI. Whether Dhoni will be keen on doing so will be interesting to see. Ishwar Pandey will surely be in contention looking at the state of pace bowling attack. Due to Ravichandran Ashwin’s dry run with the ball, Amit Mishra too might find a place. In terms of batting, India are likely to continue with the new experiment of Virat Kohli as an opener.
Probably Bhuvneshwar Kumar will enjoy some assistance as the Westpac Stadium is known to be windy and a swing bowler like him will get some assistance. The venue, past records and pitch conditions will matter little at Wellington if the Indians cannot walk in with a self-belief that they can still pull one back and outclass the Kiwis for once. But that would take an extraordinary batting performance followed by some miracle in the bowling.
New Zealand (probable): Jesse Ryder, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum (c), Luke Ronchi (wk), Nathan McCullum, James Neesham, Kyle Mills, Hamish Bennett, Mitchell McClenaghan.
India (probable): Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Stuart Binny, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Varun Aaron.
Time: 06:30 IST |01:00 GMT
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)