With the World Cup just around the corner, India starting its tour of New Zealand with a one-off T20I makes a lot more sense than it might seem at first glance. As the two teams meet at the John Davies Oval in Queenstown on February 9 (Wednesday), the match will serve as a practice game more than anything else.
What's at stake?
With a five-match ODI series lined up, this feels more like a dress rehearsal for the main event. But it presents a unique opportunity to the Indian team to reverse their fortunes and correct the mistakes which were made during the last tour. In early 2019, India lost the T20I series 3-0 in the island nation. The one thing which stood out during that series was the incompetence of the middle order to put together a proper stand.
Heading into this tour, there are still concerns around the middle order. However, with the focus being around the ODI series, there isn’t a lot at stake for either of these two sides. What is noteworthy though, is the fact that India had actually won the last time these two sides met in a T20I, which was during the group stage of the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia.
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Speaking of the hosts, there are a few things which they need to sort out. New Zealand haven’t really had a lot of game time. However, what is advantageous for them is the fact that all the players had been playing in the Super Smash recently, which should hold them in good stead. Despite that, the New Zealand team is coming into this year with a 2-1 series loss vs England in September and a few more disappointing results at home before that.
What they said:
The one-off T20I is being treated more like a warm-up by both the teams. In the pre-match presser, India had ODI captain Mithali Raj speaking on the importance of getting used to the conditions.
“Good to have some training sessions on. The conditions have been different in the first training session, which we had,” Mithali said. “The series is the best way to get ready for the World Cup. It is the best way we can get used to the wickets, what sort of combinations we are looking for getting into the World Cup,”.
New Zealand skipper Sophie Devine, on the other hand, spoke on using the T20I to get adjusted to the tempo of the long format game. “It is important that we get adjusted to the tempo of the 50 overs. That has been our focus in the last few days. I guess we have to get back to the pace of play in an ODI,” Devine said.
Players to watch out for:
Amelia Kerr: The prodigal child of New Zealand cricket will return to the international stage after her mental health break. Given how this team is shaping up for the World Cup, Kerr is a vital part of their plans. Her batting is much improved and she played a key role in helping Wellington Blaze to the title in the recently concluded Super Smash.
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Yastika Bhatia: The young left-hander is a vital part of the current Indian team after her performances on the Australia tour last year. She will take up the number three position in absence of Jemimah Rodrigues and might present a case for herself moving forward, with the Commonwealth Games to be held later this year and the T20 World Cup coming up in the next year.
Head to head: New Zealand 8 - 4 India
- Harmanpreet Kaur’s 103 in Guyana during the 2018 T20 World Cup is the highest individual score in IND-NZ matches.
- Kate Ebrahim’s 3 for 16 are the best figures for a New Zealand player against India in T20Is.
India: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Shafali Verma, Smriti Mandhana, Yastika Bhatia,, Richa Ghosh (WK), Sneh Rana, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Renuka Singh Thakur, Meghna Singh
New Zealand: Sophie Devine (c), Suzie Bates, Amy Sattherwaite, Amelia Kerr, Katey Martin, Frances Mackay, Brooke Halliday, Lea Tahuhu, Jess Kerr, Fran Jonas, Hannah Rowe