India will be gunning for a 5-0 whitewash as they prepare to take on New Zealand without Virat Kohli in Hamilton. (Image credit: BCCI Twitter)
Virat Kohli will no longer be with the Indian cricket team for the remainder of the tour of New Zealand. However, the current form of the squad and the bench strength of the side give them such an aura that Kohli might not be missed. Rohit Sharma, who has won seven out of eight ODIs as skipper, takes the over the side and they will be determined to continue their domination of New Zealand. India have achieved only one 5-0 whitewash in series outside the sub-continent and that was against Zimbabwe in 2013. A win in Hamilton could boost them to an unprecedented 5-0 whitewash on New Zealand shores, something that has been achieved by visiting teams only once.
The Hamilton ODI will be special for Rohit, who will play his 200th ODI and could become the leading six-hitter for India in ODIs. His form, combined with Shikhar Dhawan’s consistency at the top, has boosted the Indian batting. Kohli’s consistency might be missed but they could give Shubman Gill a debut, with the youngster making waves ever since the victorious Under-19 World Cup held in New Zealand in 2018. Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu showed some solid application but Karthik could make way for MS Dhoni, who missed the Bay Oval ODI due to a hamstring injury.
It is in the bowling that India has the X-factor. Mohammed Shami has been sensational in the powerplay and in the death overs while the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have kept things quiet in the middle overs. The return of Hardik Pandya has lent balance to the bowling side, something which was acknowledged by Ross Taylor who said his spell was vital. The way the team is clicking in all fronts, it will need something out of the ordinary for New Zealand to reverse the losing trend.
Problems galore for Kiwis
While the Indian openers are laying the platform for a win, the New Zealand openers are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Both Martin Guptill and Colin Munro have failed to provide the blazing start in the powerplays that defined New Zealand’s progress. With Guptill and Munro’s failure, the pressure on the middle order is immense. Kane Williamson has not converted his starts while Ross Taylor impressed with a fine 93 in the previous ODI.
New Zealand’s batting stems from the fact that they have lost of wickets at the wrong time. The Bay Oval ODI was a classic example. Tom Latham and Taylor strung a partnership of over 100 but once Lathan got out, the Kiwis struggled for momentum in the end overs. With the batting struggling, the bowlers have also not delivered with Trent Boult and Tim Southee not delivering. Lockie Ferguson has been the most impressive but he has lacked support from the others.
New Zealand will have to show plenty of application with the bat if they have to put up a big fight against an Indian cricket team that is on top of their game. A win for New Zealand could give them confidence in this crucial year but a loss could result in more head-scratching for Williamson’s side.