India vs New Zealand 1st T20I on January 24 (Friday) will be broadcast on the Star Sports Network and live streaming will be available on Hotstar. The match will be played in Auckland and will begin at 12:20 HRS IST. You can also follow all the action on our live blog (IND vs NZ).
India and New Zealand have both just finished playing Australia and had very different experiences. The Kiwis are looking to turn a corner and Virat Kohli’s men are high on confidence. Especially, KL Rahul, who’s versatility and superb performances, has earned him high praise as the T20 World Cup preparations intensify.
Shikhar Dhawan’s injury allows Rahul to return to his favourite batting position, at the top of the order alongside Rohit Sharma – a combination that has worked well in recent months for India in T20 cricket. It has also opened another door for Rishabh Pant, who is likely to get the nod in the middle order.
New Zealand, where conditions are similar to Australia, is a good test and an opportunity to finalise on combinations in a World Cup year.
At Auckland in the first T20I of the tour, Kohli will be looking to begin with a good performance to set the tone on the tour and it is those below him in the batting order who need to step up when the conditions are tough. Against a strong bowling line-up in their own backyard, Kohli is unlikely to shuffle the batting initially and whoever eventually among the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube, Sanju Samson and Pant makes the cut will have to make good use of the time in the middle.
The return to action for Jasprit Bumrah, against Australia, of course spells danger for the opposition and makes Kohli’s life a lot easier. Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini provide fantastic options alongside, as does Shardul Thakur who will enjoy the sight of smaller boundaries.
Other than bringing their best game on the occasion, India will also have to adjust to the ground’s dimensions. Eden Park makes it difficult to resist the temptation of going over the bowlers head and it challenges a bowlers variations.
The hosts have their own problems other than the recent battering against Australia. Injuries to key bowlers like Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson is a cause of concern for Kane Williamson. Nonetheless, Tim Southee, Blair Tickner and Scott Kuggeleijn, with Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi the spinners represent good depth.
Williamson himself is returning to T20 cricket after a year and will look to Martin Guptill, Colin Munro and Ross Taylor to back him up with batting duties. Taylor interestingly is the only survivor for New Zealand from the T20 World Cup in 2007. The skipper will also hope Colin de Grandhomme can keep his T20 form going.
India move on to the IPL after this tour, and are not scheduled yet to play further T20s in this part of the world before the World Cup. New Zealand is a difficult team to beat at home and won’t be very open to making any changes to that trend.
New Zealand lost the ODI series to India last year, but bounced back to win the T20 internationals thereafter. India have been unbeaten in the shortest format during their home season and will be gunning to add another feather in their cap. With so much at stake and a World Cup around the corner, it is set up for an absolute spectacle at Eden Park on Friday (January 24).
India’s T20I squad: Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma (VC), Sanju Samson, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (WK), Shivam Dube, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur
New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (capt), Hamish Bennett, Tom Bruce, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Scott Kuggeleijn, Daryl Mitchell, Colin Munro, Ross Taylor, Blair Tickner, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee.