ODI series against New Zealand starts tomorrow

Napier: On a high after a defining tour of Australia, the Virat Kohli-led Indian team faces a trickier challenge when it locks horns with an ever-so-sprightly New Zealand in a five-match ODI series starting Wednesday.

The Indian team, which has shifted its focus entirely on World Cup preparations, is still searching for the right middle-order combination despite their first-ever bilateral ODI series win on Australian soil. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s hat-trick of half-centuries has brought joy to the dressing room but the smaller grounds in New Zealand against a better seam attack comprising the wily Trent Boult, the talented Lockie Ferguson and the relentless Tim Southee will be a different test altogether for the ‘Men In Blue’.

New Zealand in their own backyard have always been a force to reckon with and the touring Indian teams over the years will testify that, having won only 10 out of the 35 ODIs, including a 0-4 drubbing during the last series in 2014.

Skipper Kohli is well aware that the Black Caps, with some quality players in their ranks, can be very competitive. ‘The fact they are No 3 in the world speaks about their consistency over the last couple of years. We played them in India and got beaten in Mumbai, and all the games were competitive and we felt they had a really good balance,’ Kohli said at the pre-series media conference.

NT Bureau