Updated: November 17, 2021 6:57:46 pm
A posse of openers to choose from, consequently a retuned batting order, and a bunch of fresh medium pacers, it would be a leap into the unknown for India in their T20 opener against New Zealand in Jaipur. The visitors too are forced into making a clutch of changes, with a slew of their regulars taking a break from the T20-leg of the series.
Batting: There would be genuine dilemma in arranging the batting slots. A brain-teasing Chinese puzzle—there are five genuine opening batters and only three in the middle-order. Some of the openers could squeeze into the middle order too, but new captain-coach pair would want the best man at the best spot. Of them, Venkatesh Iyer, the breakout star of the UAE instalment of the IPL, is likely to get a head-start as he is different from his colleagues. Not only is he a left-handed batsman, but also could attack the bowlers straightaway, the breed of batsmen with attacking vigour from the first ball, India have long coveted. He would likely push KL Rahul to No 3, while Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer would probably fill in No 4 and 5 spots. It’s likely that India could persist with the under-firing Rishabh Pant as the wicket-keeper batsman rather than Ishan Kishan at least for a couple of games. The temptation to blood in the smooth-stroking Ruturaj Gaikwad would be irresistible but that the team management might resist it for a game or two.
Bowling: Not as much permutational dilemma as batting, but still spoilt for choices. Ravi Ashwin would be persisted with while one of Axar Patel or Yuzvendra Chahal will replace Ravindra Jadeja. Patel is a more a like-for-like replacement, but the leg-spinner could still find himself in the playing eleven if India decide to pick three spinners. If not, Mohammed Siraj and Bhuvneshwar Kumar would be joined by Avesh Khan or Harshal Patel, both coming after a rich plume of form in the IPL. The three-pace-two-spinner ploy has been India’s default setting in the past, even at home, but could be shaken-up in this game, more so as Jaipur has long boundaries.
Batting: Without their talisman Kane Williamson, who has chosen to abstain from the T20-segment of the series, and the injured Devon Conway, the visitors’ batting looks considerably deficient. Consequently, they would lean on the erratic Martin Guptill and the new star Daryl Mitchell to provide them both firepower and feistiness. The Hong Kong born big-hitter Mark Chapman would be installed into the Williamson-shaped hole, while Tim Seiferet, who has tormented India’s bowlers in the past, and Glenn Phillips would keep their place, though both have been far from being paragons of consistency. Jimmy Neesham, in fine fettle, could be used as a floater of sorts.
Bowling: But for Trent Boult, the bowling nucleus would remain more or less the same. The choice of his replacement would be interesting—it could be a potential toss-up between Kyle Jamieson and Lockie Ferguson. Though the latter is a more-skilled white-ball exponent, Jamieson contributes more with the bat. Besides, he has scarcely bowled in the World Cup, and would want to shake off some rust before the Test series begins in a week’s time. Another possibility is Ferguson knocking off Adam Milne. The spin pair of Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner are undroppables after their efficient bowling in the World Cup, which could confine off-spinner Todd Astle to bench-warming for most of the series.
New Zealand (Playing XI): Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Mark Chapman, Glenn Phillips, Tim Seifert(w), Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee(c), Todd Astle, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult
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