Pune: New Zealand took India by surprise in the first ODI in Mumbai and will be keen to go for the kill in the three-match series with another win here on Wednesday. After beating the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Australia on the trot with a swagger, the Men in Blue looked unassailable before the New Zealand series but the magnificent partnership between Tom Latham and Ross Taylor spoiled India skipper Virat Kohli’s 200th ODI party.
The onus is on the home team to keep the series alive. Failure will not only help the Kiwis puncture India’s air of invincibility but also spoil Kohli and Co’s chances of regaining the No. 1 spot in the ICC ODI rankings. The Pune wicket witnessed an entertaining game earlier this year when India beat England, chasing a target of 350 runs with Hardik Pandya providing the final flourish with a six. India’s bowling coach Bharat Arun expects a similar wicket on Wednesday.
Openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan who failed to live up to the expectations in the first game will be eager to fire, with the in-form Ajinkya Rahane waiting in the wings. Kohli missed Monday’s practice session but he deserved a break after a scintillating century in the first ODI. Much will depend on his willow yet again. Dinesh Karthik who provided splendid support to the skipper in Mumbai could cement his position with a big knock. Motivation will not be in short supply to Kedar Jadhav either because he calls Pune home.
Bowling looks like an uphill task on this pitch which produced 706 runs in all in the previous ODI. The duo of Yuzuvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav endured a terrible day in Mumbai and they will be fired to regain the splendid form they had displayed against the Aussies. The pleasant weather in Pune comes as a respite after the stifling humidity in Mumbai, especially for the Kiwis who are not expected to make a change to their line-up. Martin Guptill and Colin Munroe who provided a fine start on Sunday would look for an encore. The deadly duo of Tim Southee and Trent Boult who troubled the Indian top order no end will lead the pace attack with left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner being the key in the middle overs.