New Zealand vs. India 4th ODI Preview: India enter last leg with plenty of worries

Akash Ghosh
New Update
New Zealand vs. India 4th ODI Preview: India enter last leg with plenty of worries

India - New Zealand © Getty Images

The New Zealand vs. India series has been quite one-sided so far going purely by the results. The hosts have found ways to come back in the game despite being put under pressure by the visitors, who themselves have played catch up for most of the tour. With the T20I and the first three ODIs sealed under their belt, the White Ferns have an opportunity to continue their dominance over India as the two teams meet for the fourth ODI at the John Davies Oval in Queenstown on February 22 (Tuesday). 

What’s at stake?

With three games done and dusted, the hosts will be happy to get a series win under their belt. Especially with their record in the last couple of years in ODI cricket, a series win is a breath of fresh air for them. The fact that they have sealed the series opens up doors for more experimentation, which they haven’t been short of lately. 

India, on the other hand, has a few questions to answer and time seems to be running out for them. The five-match series is possibly the best thing which the visitors could have asked for ahead of the mega-event, but at some point one has to wonder if the team management has found the right combinations which they can stick with during the World Cup. 

The batting has clicked and managed to score more than 270 runs twice in three games now, which is a definite positive. On top of that, the fact that Smriti Mandhana, arguably India’s best batter, hasn’t played yet in the series, makes India's scores more commendable. In the absence of the southpaw, S Meghana has given the batting something to be happy about with her serene presence at the crease, especially during her 41-ball 61 in the last game. However, she might be rested with Mandhana expected to return to the XI for the first time in New Zealand. 

Shafali Verma found some form in the last game, but the problem lies beyond the openers. Meghana could be pushed down the order given her form, but that makes very little sense, as she is only in the reserves for the World Cup. At the surface level, India’s batting looks smooth with two 270+ scores, but no one can brush aside the fact that the middle order is not in full flow. 279 might seem like a good score, but one has to remember that they were 100 for 1 after 13 overs.

The bowling unit needs a re-jig soon. The management has not stuck with a particular bowling combination, which makes sense given the focus on workload management and extended quarantine periods for two of India’s four-member pace attack. Having said that, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Deepti Sharma look indispensable at this moment, especially after the latter's four-wicket haul and run-a-ball 69 in the last two matches. 

The next two matches present an opportunity to narrow down the five bowlers, who will spearhead the attack in the World Cup, but for now, India can’t afford to do that because their rest and rotation policy hasn’t gone as they would have hoped when they arrived in New Zealand. 

It seems like the hosts can’t set a foot wrong at this moment even if they wanted to. Whatever new experiments they have tried, have worked at least partially, if not entirely. They are yet to zero down on an opening combination and don’t be surprised if there's a new one in the fourth ODI, as it makes sense to try something out now with the series in the bag already. 

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Amelia Kerr’s all-round show has been a highlight for the hosts. On her comeback, she has done enough to show her importance in this current unit. But what should be more satisfying for the team is her ability to hold the middle order together. New Zealand will also look for an improved performance with the new ball. But when the wicket is as flat as the one at the John Davies Oval in Queenstown, it leaves very little room for error for the bowlers. 

Jhulan Goswami found some good swing but at the surface level, the pitch seems fair to both teams. The fact that the teams are treating all these games as mere practice for the World Cup begs the question of whether this largely flat wicket at the Juntion Oval provides enough challenges to the teams to be prepared for anything. 

None of that should be a problem for the hosts though as they could be presented with similar surfaces during the World Cup. However, six different venues could produce varying conditions as well. Having said that, New Zealand have already tried each and every player in the squad.  

The visitors clearly have a lot more questions to answer than the hosts. 

What they said:

“Lots of things have been discussed keeping things in mind. Simply in bowling, we are trying to address the middle overs, where we can pick up the wickets because you must have noticed there have been a couple of hundred-run partnerships. We are trying to break that jinx in the middle overs, I have to give it to the players, they have tried their best. Batting unit is doing their job, now it is on the bowling unit,” 

- Ramesh Powar, on the missed chances in the third ODI

“Being constantly in each other’s company gives us a lot of time to talk about the game. The coaching staff have gone about it in a really nice way. They haven’t been too overbearing. They have given very clear messages to people. Then there is a really great senior player group in this team as well,”

- Frances Mackay, on New Zealand’s ability to bounce back

Players to watch out for:

Sophie Devine: 

The New Zealand skipper will be under a bit of pressure. Her batting numbers haven’t been impressive this series despite looking threatening for a bit in the second ODI. With the ball, she was quite expensive in the last game, even though she picked up a wicket. Whether she opens or not, the White Ferns would hope she finds some form leading into the World Cup, given that virtually everything else seems to be falling into place. 

Deepti Sharma: As the World Cup approaches fast, it seems the all-rounder is putting an end to the debate for the spin bowling all-rounder spot. In the last two matches, she has picked up a four-wicket haul and scored a valiant 69 off as many balls, which has now made her a prime contender for the no. 7 spot in the Indian team.


Head to head - New Zealand 31 - 19 India

  • The last time India toured New Zealand, Smriti Mandhana scored 196 runs in three matches at an average of 98, which included a century and a fifty. 

  • Suzie Bates has scored 655 runs in 19 innings against India at an average of 36.38, which is less than her career average of 41.14. 

Predicted XIs:

New Zealand: Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine (c), Amelia Kerr, Amy Satterthwaite, Maddy Green, Lauren Down, Katey Martin (wk), Frances Mackay, Lea Tahuhu, Hannah Rowe, Rosemary Mair

India: Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Mithali Raj (c), Harmanpreet Kaur, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia/Richa Ghosh(wk), Jhulan Goswami, Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh Thakur