India vs New Zealand, 1st ODI (Mumbai, 2017)

Since falling agonisingly short of the Champions Trophy, Kohli and his band of merry men have had a busy summer. India may have lost Anil Kumble as a coach but they have continued their stellar form to conquer Sri Lanka (3-0 in tests, 5-0 in ODIs), West Indies (3-1, ODIs) and Australia (4-1, ODIs). With the weather cooling down and Diwali celebrations nearly complete, the Indian team gets down to the serious business of hosting New Zealand for 3 ODI and 3 T20s.

The ICC Rankings tell us that India should win the ODI series while NZ should walk away with the T20 honours; India is the #2 ODI Team, up against the #5 ranked NZ side. Conversely NZ has top T20 billing against India’s fifth place.

Cricket, however, would be deathly boring if everything went to plan.

The ODI series kicks off Sunday, October 22nd, at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai (1.30pm IST).

Venues

After a series of rain-impacted matches against Australia, the ODI series with NZ goes to Mumbai, Pune and Kanpur, fortunately all cities with low history of rain in October, and clear forecasts for the next 2 weeks.

All 3 ODI grounds are historically batsmen friendly; the last match at each ground produced scores of 438, 356 and 303 respectively – enough said.

India

Likely ODI Playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jaspreet Bumrah.

With the continued omission of Jadeja and Ashwin from the bowling line-up and the emergence of Hardik Pandya as a genuine all-rounder, nine of India’s playing XI look fairly set. Shastri and Kohli will need to make the decision on Shikhar Dhawan’s return. Will it be at the cost of Ajinkya Rahane who notched up four excellent half-centuries in five innings against Australia? Based on this management’s focus on strike rates even in test matches, we think Rahane will be unlucky but will have to miss out.  Manish Pandey also batted in all five games against Australia but only managed a total of 83 runs – Karthik’s inclusion in the side is notable and suggests that patience with Pandey at #4 might be running out.

New Zealand

Likely ODI Playing XI: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (c), Tom Latham (wk), Ross Taylor, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Adam Milne, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi.

The NZ ODI Team has looked far less settled in the past few months; four of the Champions Trophy playing XI have not even traveled to India. The batting line-up looks solid, with Guptill, Williamson and Taylor bringing loads of IPL experience, while Munro and Latham have been in good touch in 2017.

As for bowlers, Boult, Southee and Milne all have extensive IPL experience too, but Sodhi and Santner will need to step up to compete with Kuldeep and Chahal. It’s no surprise the NZ selectors brought in two relative newbies for the India tour – George Worker and Todd Astle – both batsmen who can spin the ball, to provide an extra spin option if needed.

Prediction

Kohli’s team will be gunning for another series sweep, but NZ have always punched above their weight. We think India will take the series but will drop a match to win 2-1. What do you guys think? Let us know in the comments.

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