‘King’ Kohli will be the cynosure of all eyes as Rohit Sharma-led India takes on New Zealand, fresh from its maiden ODI series win in Pakistan, in the first of the three-match Master Card ODI series at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here on Wednesday.
With Kohli well and truly announcing his grand return to century-scoring spree with two tons against Sri Lankans in the just-concluded ODI series, the Kiwis should find it really tough to keep him under check for sure.
Captain Rohit Sharma, who should be desperate for a three-figure knock which he has been failing despite flamboyant starts, and his partner, Shubman Gill, who seemed to have settled down in the slot comfortably with his second ODI ton last Sunday against Sri Lanka, the home team can hope for a perfect start to set the stage for the likes of Kohli, wicketkeeper-batter Ishan Kishan set to play in the middle-order according to Rohit Sharma.
Shreyas Iyer has been ruled out with a back injury. It will be interesting to see whether Suryakumar Yadav finds a place in the eleven or not. In bowling, pacer Mohammed Siraj is having a dream run with the ball and will be playing his first international at home. He should be a major challenge for the Kiwis, bowling in tandem with the more experienced Mohammed Shami.
The home team management has plenty of bowling options depending on whether spin or pace attack should be bolstered.
On the other hand, the New Zealanders will surely miss the experience and class of Kane Williamson in batting and Tim Southee in bowling – both rested as part of workload management for the World Cup later this year.
Clearly, top-order batters Finn Allen, Devon Conway, Darryl Mitchell, and captain Tom Latham (who played down the order in Pakistan), Michael Bracewell have a task cut out with the bat for sure. The explosive Glen Phillips whose brilliant assault helped the team clinch the decider against Pakistan should relish the conditions here too as the pitch is expected to live up to the reputation of a true ODI wicket.
In bowling, Lockie Ferguson and left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner should be the key performers and will have to be at their best to check the free-stroking Indian batting line-up.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Hardik Pandya (vice-capt), Srikar Bharat, Yuzevendra Chahal, Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shahbaz Ahmed, Shubman Gill, Shardul Thakur, Umran Malik, Washington Sundar and Suryakumar Yadav.
New Zealand: Tom Latham (captain), Finn Allen, Doug Bracewell, Michael Bracewell, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Jacob Duffy, Lockie Ferguson, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Henry Shipley, Ish Sodhi and Blair Tickner.
Umpires: Nitin Menon & Anil Chaudhary.
Stadium: Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium
India vs. New Zealand, 1st ODI starts at 1.30 pm.