India gear up for New Zealand challenge – ODI series preview

India kicks off their New Zealand tour at Napier tomorrow where they play their first ODI against the hosts. India had a pretty disastrous ODI series against South Africa. The bowling completely disintegrated and the batting struggled to stand up to South African pace attack. The disappointing series could have been attributed to lack of practice prior to the ODI series but the team does not have such excuses this time.

The Indian squad has some changes for the New Zealand tour from the team which lost to South Africa earlier last month. Bowling again is going to be of great concern for the Indian team considering the small grounds and short boundaries. Let us look at the ODI squad selected for the New Zealand tour:

Squad: MS Dhoni (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Ishwar Pandey, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron

The squad is pretty good and except for Yuvraj the batting is almost the same as the one which toured South Africa in December. The absence of Yuvraj means Rahane and Rayudu fight for a single spot. Ajinkya Rahane was one of the bright spots for India in the South African series and is also a great fielder. He will most probably play in the first ODI ahead of Rayudu. The rest of the batting is expected to remain the same. Dhawan and Rohit would want to forget the South African series in a hurry and would want to put up a better performance at the start. The middle order is almost settled with Kohli, Rahane/Rayudu and Raina. Jadeja will play as the all-rounder and it will be a tossup between Ashwin and Binny.

MS Dhoni has always been fascinated with a medium pace all-rounder, so it will be interesting to see if he will play Binny ahead of Ashwin. The New Zealand pitches will aid seamers and Binny will be a useful option. India already has Jadeja and can use Rohit Sharma and Raina as off-spinning options if needed. The other interesting selection will be the pace bowlers. Varun Aaron makes a comeback to the squad after almost 3 years and provides a quick bowling option for the Indian captain. Shami Ahmed will be a sure starter for the first ODI but it will be interesting to see who will take the new ball with him.

Ishant Sharma is in the squad but I expect Bhuvneshwar Kumar to play ahead of him. Ishant had a pretty bad tour in South Africa and India would benefit playing a completely fresh attack in New Zealand. Ishwar Pandey is another option India has to mull over ahead of the first ODI in Napier. It will be interesting to see what combination India will play in the first ODI.

This is an important tour for the young team. They are ranked number 1 in the world and they are expected to beat the 8th ranked New Zealand team comfortably. Dhoni will hope that the team can step up to the challenge and put up a good performance. It will be an interesting series and it will be great to see the young team battling out in conditions unfamiliar to them. The batting came out with flying colors at the end of the South African tour and now it is time for the bowling to step up.

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