New Zealand, who is currently trailing the five-match series 0-2, won the toss and chose to bat against India. Kane Williamson’s side made one change, with Mitchell Santner replacing Colin de Grandhomme. However, when Virat Kohli came to speak, he dropped a bombshell to announce two changes. MS Dhoni, who has been in tremendous form in 2019 and has rediscovered his finishing prowess, was ruled out of the game due to a sore hamstring while he announced that Hardik Pandya replaced Vijay Shankar in the side. Speaking on the selection of Pandya at the toss, Kohli said, “He brings great balance to the team. He can give you 5-6 overs and also play the big shots as well. It's brilliant, especially if you look at our away performances.”
The absence of Dhoni is a major blow for India as the former India skipper was finishing games in his trademark style during the ODIs against Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, after he hit a slow fifty which resulted in criticism, Dhoni responded with magnificent knocks of 55* and 68* to give India their first bilateral series win Down Under.
However, the return of Pandya back into the Indian cricket team completes a roller-coaster journey for the Baroda all-rounder. Pandya was present on the show Koffee With Karan along with KL Rahul and his comments on women was ‘outrageous’. His comments were deemed ‘misogynistic’ and ‘racist’ by many social media users and he was called back from the tour.
Pandya and Rahul were subsequently suspended and the Committee of Administrators wanted to initiate an inquiry about their conduct. Diana Edulji wanted the BCCI office-bearers to be involved in deciding the fate of the two cricketers but CoA chief Vinod Rai had dismissed the suggestion as it would have been in violation of the Board constitution. The CoA said the decision to suspend the two players was taken under "Rule 46 of the approved BCCI Constitution", which covers players' conduct that can bring the Board into disrepute.
However, Pandya and Rahul's suspension was lifted after the Supreme Court decided to hear matters related to the BCCI only after some weeks. "The matter and decision has been taken with the concurrence of Amicus Curiae, P.S. Narasimha. In view of the above, the suspension orders dated 11.01.2019 is immediately lifted pending appointment and adjudication of the allegations by the BCCI Ombudsman," said one member of the Committee of Administrators.
BCCI president CK Khanna had earlier urged the CoA to allow Pandya and Rahul to play while the inquiry is being conducted. Khanna said calling the SGM to appoint an ombudsman to investigate the two players' conduct, as demanded by Board officials, wouldn't be right as the Supreme Court was adjourned for a week.