Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson will be the two names to watch out for in the match    Getty Images, AFP
Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson will be the two names to watch out for in the first ODI Getty Images & AFP

After a 3-0 whitewash in the recently concluded three-Test series against New Zealand, India are all set to play a five One-Day International (ODI) with the visitors. The first match is scheduled to be played at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium (HPCA), Dharamsala. Indian team has played exceptionally well and excelled in all departments to rightly clinch the Test series and will now look to produce a similar performance in the ODI series. India secured the top spot in Tests with the win and will be highly confident while New Zealand will be eager to win their first match of the tour. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs New Zealand, 1st ODI at Dharamsala

India currently hold the fourth position in the ICC ODI rankings, just behind New Zealand. However, the two teams have a significant difference of points and for India to go up in rankings, the team will have to win the series by a 4-1 margin. New Zealand have performed well in limited-overs format recently and will be tough competitors for India. India’s biggest weapon against the strong visitors will be their top-order with players like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane. With ace spinners, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, rested along with Mohammed Shami, the onus will be on the bowlers and some new string of players in the line-up. New Zealand batsmen failed to perform in front of Jadeja-Ashwin who contributed massively behind India’s success in Tests but will feel at ease with their absence.

Indian batsmen have also been in form in 50-overs, especially star batsman Kohli. Kohli, DHawan and Rohit were outstanding in India’s ODI series against Australia, early in 2016 but will play the 50-overs game after a long period. Nonetheless, one can never rule out Kohli’s chances of performing as he has been phenomenal in limited-overs this year. Kohli is considered as the finest in coloured clothing and will be expected to maintain his form in this series as well. Dhoni will make a comeback after a short two-Twenty20 (T20I) series versus West Indies in August and be ahead of novice skipper Kane Williamson due to his experience. Ashwin and Jadeja will be the key bowlers.

However, New Zealand also have a strong team to face the hosts. All-rounder Corey Anderson has been included in the ODI squad and can be the game-changer. Another name that the team will depend a lot upon is Mitchel Santner. Santner played well in India, utilising the conditions on offer and has been a threat to the Indian batsmen in ICC WOrld Twenty20 (WT20I). Santner will be a dependent force just like Dhoni will want his inexperienced spinners like, Akshar Patel, Amit Mishra and newbie Jayant Yadav to make a mark. Akshar has been good for India with his control and variations and will be ready for the challenge. As the first ODI takes place at Dharamshala, here are some key battles that can be expected between both sides:

Indian spinners vs New Zealand batsmen: It is now an evident fact that the New Zealand team does not have many names who can confidently face the spinners, that too in Indian conditions. Players like Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill, who were expected to emerge as the heroes with the bat owing to their experience of playing in the country, failed in multiple occasions only to increase the problems. Though New Zealand have a better rank in the ODIs than India, the battle between the Indian spinners and New Zealand batsmen is expected to continue. This time more attention will be on India’s new combination in spin department and how they fare with the white ball, which is not akin to spin as much.

Trent Boult, Matt Henry vs India’s top-order: India’s batsmen will be up for the challenge against New Zealand’s pacers. Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada were a potent threat to India in their bilateral series against the hosts in 2015. The same will be expected of Trent Boult and Matt Henry. Henry was a decent replacement of Neil Wagner in the Test series and will be expected to deliver along with others and like to keep India guessing. Meanwhile, India’s top performers have struggled, a bit, to connect bat with ball and are little tentative facing deliveries swinging away from them, especially in the corridor of uncertainty. Dharamsala, a ground known for having an extra bit for the pacers, will definitely be fruitful for names like Boult, Henry and co.

Akshar Patel vs Mitchell Santner: The spinners play a good role in India, irrespective of the ball turning vastly or slightly, as they bring down the pace of the game and try to curb run flow of opposition team. One can say the spinner will still have some say on the outcome of the match which sets up an interesting battle between Akshar and Santner. Akshar is not India’s frontline bowler but still cannot be overlooked. He will be up against Santner who knows Indian batsmen well by know. Will Santner surprise everyone with a better performance from Tests or India’s young spinner will outperform him? Time will tell.

Kohli vs Williamson: Probably the biggest unofficial clash the world is enjoying currently is that between Kohli and Williamson. Both the players are of a similar stature in terms of knowledge of the game, potential, talent and numbers. The series is a chance for Kohli to improve his numbers while Williamson, playing away from home, will be showing his class and why he is considered among the finest batsmen from modern era. The responsibility of leading the side is not upon Kohli now as Dhoni will be taking over and that leaves the player with a lot more freedom to play with. On the other hand, upon Williamson is the pressure of captaincy as well as using the long handle to good effective to turn a miserable tour in his side’s favour.

There are some other interesting battles as well which may unfold, including one between New Zealand’s ODI specialist and India’s wise man, Dhoni. Dhoni will be up against Anderson in the death overs who has a vast knowledge of India’s grounds having played a lot in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Rohit and Guptill are one of a kind for their sides which will keep the viewers glued as well. Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya and Mandeep Singh will be expected to fire whereas one cannot rule out Jimmy Neesham, Luke Ronchi as well. Overall, an interesting battle awaits us come October 16.

(Paulami Chakraborty, a singer, dancer, artist, and photographer, loves the madness of cricket and writes about the game. She can be followed on Twitter at @Polotwitts)