There are three possible angles for the sealed New Zealand-India ODI series – Rohit Sharma’s 200th ODI fixture, chance for New Zealand to get something from the last two games and an opportunity for India to ring in the changes. With India leading the five-match series 3-0 and skipper Virat Kohli headed home for some much-needed rest with World Cup the next big target on the agenda, New Zealand will be eager to plug holes that have been exposed in the first three matches.
Coming into the series, New Zealand had lost just two ODIs at home since 2014-15. However, just ahead of the World Cup, New Zealand have been dealt multiple blows as they slid to one loss after another in the series against India. The positive, however, is that they have improved with each passing contest.
New Zealand have lost too many wickets upfront and the batsmen have struggled to play the spin twins – Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. One of the few batsmen to play through the seamers and then handle the spin with confidence was Ross Taylor in the third ODI. The mainstay of the line-up scored 90 runs at Bay Oval before being dismissed. Over to the bowling, barring Trent Boult, rest of the bowlers haven’t offered much penetration into the Indian batting which hasn’t been tested much.
To try and bring in an improvement in the fourth ODI in Hamilton, hosts have brought about the changes. Todd Astle, the leg-spinning all-rounder, and Jimmy Neesham, the seam-bowling all-rounder, replaced the misfiring pair of Doug Bracewell and Ish Sodhi. Astle played for New Zealand A against India A to pick up four wickets in Visakhapatnam in 2017.
Moving to India side of things, they have most of their bases covered. Sans, Kohli, India would be confident of continuing their winning momentum under Rohit’s leadership. Shubman Gill, who averaged over 60 in List A games during the domestic season in 2018-19, is expected to come in as a replacement and received a positive vote of support from the skipper after the third ODI. “I wasn’t even 10 percent of what he (Shubman) is, when I was 19,” Kohli had said after India’s series win in Mount Maunganui. The Indian camp would also be pleased with the all round show put up by Hardik Pandya on his return from suspension – not only was he economical while taking two wickets, he also took a stunner in the field.
Moving to a milestone moment part of the fixture, Rohit will be playing his 200th ODI on Thursday and after strong outing in the last two matches, he would be eager to go for bigger things. As skipper, Rohit has had an impressive record and a 4-0 lead will be India’s biggest series win (across formats) in their 52 years of touring New Zealand having first visited in 1967.
MS Dhoni, who had missed the third ODI with a sore hamstring, which allowed Dinesh Karthik to come in, is still a question mark for the fourth ODI. According to word going around, there is nothing much to worry about and the decision on his participation will be taken on Thursday.
— BCCI (@BCCI) 30 January 2019
It would be interesting if the Indian think that rests Mohammed Shami, who has won back-to-back Man of the Match awards and has been playing non-stop since the start of the Australia Test series. In case he is rested, Khaleel Ahmed or Mohammed Siraj could be given another chance to stake their claim for the reserve pacer’s slot available in the World Cup squad.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shubman Gill, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Siraj, Ravindra Jadeja.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham (wk), Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, and Ross Taylor.