Injuries to key players has opened the door for exciting youngsters such as Prithvi Shaw to make an impression in the Indian line-up against a low-on-confidence and depleted New Zealand in the three-match ODI series starting here on Wednesday.
This is India’s third ODI assignment after the World Cup last year, having previously beaten West Indies (away) and Australia (at home).
The Black Caps, on the other hand, play their first ODI since that infamous loss at Lord’s in the World Cup final against England.
The last time these two sides met in the 50-over format, New Zealand had knocked India out of the World Cup with an 18-run win over two days in the second semifinal at Manchester.
India sort of redeemed that loss with a 5-0 T20 whitewash that concluded on Sunday.
In the current context, stakes aren’t that high as both sides prepare for the T20 World Cup later in Australia this year. In fact, the upcoming two-Test series later this month bears more significance than this ODI clash.
In the ODI series, neither side will be at full strength as a string of first-team players will be missing due to injuries.
India were dealt a major blow when Rohit Sharma was ruled out of the remainder of this tour owing to the calf injury he picked up in the final T20I. The Men in Blue are already missing Shikhar Dhawan, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar.
For New Zealand, inspirational skipper Kane Williamson has joined the long list of injured along with the likes of Trent Boult.
Mayank Agarwal was named as Rohit’s replacement for the ODI series on Tuesday afternoon. And skipper Virat Kohli outlined that they will stick to the strategy adopted against Australia in Rajkot, where KL Rahul kept wickets and batted at number five.
Kohli had more or less confirmed Shaw’s ODI debut in that scenario, and now India will probably have two openers debuting.
The last time such a situation arose was 2016, when KL Rahul and Karun Nair opened for India on their debuts in Zimbabwe.
Sunil Gavaskar and Sudhir Naik in the 1974 series against England and Parthasarthy Sharma and Dilip Vengsarkar in 1976 against New Zealand are the other previous instances.
Such a move would set up India’s batting line-up with Kohli at number three and Shreyas Iyer at number four.
In the nets on Tuesday, Manish Pandey batted along with Kohli and Iyer, ahead of Shivam Dube, Rishabh Pant and Kedar Jadhav.
If Pandey plays, the lower order will be a curious mix with Dube, Jadhav and Ravindra Jadeja vying for the all-rounder’s spot.
In the bowling department, three pacers will probably be the norm once again.
Kuldeep Yadav, who sat out the entire T20I series, is slated for a comeback given his performance against Australia at home.
Teams (from): India: Virat Kohli (capt), Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (wk), Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini.
New Zealand: Tom Latham (capt and wk), Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Colin de Grandhomme, Jimmy Neesham, Scott Kuggeleijn, Tom Blundell, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Hamish Bennett, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, Mark Chapman.