This will be the first ODI between India and New Zealand at Wankhede Stadium    AFP and Getty Images
This will be the first ODI between India and New Zealand at Wankhede Stadium AFP and Getty Images

New Zealand had visited India last year at the same time, and you must be wondering why would the island nation, where the temperature keeps even your armpits fresh, come again to profusely sweat and suffer in the October heat.

Unlike last year, New Zealand won t battle India in Tests but for three ODIs and as many T20Is the first of which will be played at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

The last time it rained unseasoned in Mumbai was exactly a week ago. Ever since it has been partly cloudy, and it is forecasted to remain the same on the match day, with the maximum temperature reading 31 degree Celsius. You may pity the visitors while blaming the human race for global warming.

Pitch please

New Zealand have played two ODIs at Wankhede Stadium, winning against Canada and losing to Sri Lanka. On a track that now has an average first-innings score of 245, New Zealand had plundered 358 for 6, the then highest score at the venue until South Africa crushed India to pulp in 2015 and recorded 438 for 4.

How does it help New Zealand? Given India s bowlers have been one of the significant reasons for the team s success; it is imperative that the New Zealand batters strike down Virat Kohli s primary ammunition. Once they do that, India will have to limp their way to the finish line, especially given the fact that they have not yet crossed the 300-run mark in the 17 ODIs they have played here since 1987.

But then, it all depends on the recipe the curatorhas used to prepare the track.

Speaking to India TODAY, curator Ramesh Mhamunkar said, It is a typical ODI wicket. There will be good carry and bounce. Batter, who is good at playing on the up, will benefit from the wicket. In addition, the new-ball bowlers may give a tough time to the batters.

Mhamunkar later spoke about how will the red-soil wicket help the spinners, but let us decode the game plan and playing XIs before we dish out a road map for the wrist-spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.

Likely XI for New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Adam Milne, Trent Boult

Colin Munro, typically a middle-order batsman, opened in the practice matches, pushing Tom Latham, an opener, at No. 5. No matter how ridiculous the strategy sounds, Latham managed to score a century. With the track offering bounce, the explosive duo of Martin Guptill and Munro may dent India s confidence with their back-foot technique. Kane Williamson confirmed the same in pre-match conference.

New Zealand s batting depth is scary. Barring No. 11 Trent Boult, every player can send the ball sailing over the boundary line. But for that to happen, they will have to prepare well to tackle the leg-spinner Chahal and Chinaman bowler Kuldeep.

A wrist-spinner even with a high-arm action can turn the ball square, with enough bounce to fool the batter. That is anyway the speciality of a red-soil wicket, added Mhamunkar.

Williamson, too, is well aware of the pitfalls that the Indian spinners lay. Both [Kuldeep and Chahal] are very talented bowlers. Their exposure in the IPL has been huge for them and pushed their case to play for India. They both have been very successful. We know it will be a tough challenge, but one that guys are looking forward to, he told reporters.

India vs New Zealand, 1st ODI at Mumbai: 200 ODIs for Virat Kohli, other statistical highlights
India vs New Zealand, 1st ODI at Mumbai: 200 ODIs for Virat Kohli, other statistical highlights

Having said that, New Zealand will also have to be wary of India s famed batting line-up.

During 2016 WT20, spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner had taken 7 wickets between them, giving away a mere 29 runs in 8 overs. However, this track is not as dust-bowl as it was in Nagpur. The leg-spinner may have to wait for his chance, as New Zealand are likely to field a four-pacer attack to bounce India out.

Likely XI for India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan/Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli (c), Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah

When Shikhar Dhawan was not part of the five-ODI series to be with his ailing wife, Ajinkya Rahane, the forever backup opener, scored 244 runs at 48.8, including four half-centuries. The debate over his inclusion after Dhawan s return remains inconclusive.

Otherwise, there is no reason to tinker with the playing XI. In fact, it is MS Dhoni s batting position that is often pondered over. If his finishing skills have lost force, batting up the order would keep India in good stead.

Quote unquote

They are not afraid to flight the ball and go for wickets, which is important in this format, especially because they bowl in middle overs. The grounds are not so big here, and sometimes you will be in two minds whether you want to flight the ball or restrict the opposition. But they understand the game. – Rohit Sharma on the spin pair of Chahal and Kuldeep

TIME: 13.30 IST | 08:00 GMT