The two T20 matches that India take on New Zealand in form a part of what could be described as a semblance of India's first ever bilateral T20 series.
The two T20 matches that India take on New Zealand in form a part of what could be described as a semblance of India's first ever bilateral T20 series. At best of times, a T20 match is like Russian roulette - minus the blood of course - but with a definite chance of a truckload of newbie staking their claim to glory from both sides in this match-up, it becomes as difficult to predict a winner as it is to call one Mr. George Bush the smartest ever President of the country.
Christchurch is the venue for the first T20 match and it has already given the Indians a feel of what is to follow; what with conditions windy enough to produce much electricity in the country. Yet, what worked as a rather huge disadvantage for the Indian last time around - or the cause for the aberration as Rahul Dravid mentioned in his press conference - could very well be a huge plus for them this time. In Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel, Team India has three of the better - of not the best - swing and seam bowlers, who have the potential in them to take to the conditions as a duck to water.
For the Kiwis, Iain O'Brien is the one wicket-taking seamer that they possess, and he could very well be the man to watch out for. Much has been also made of Jacob Oram's return to the team after his long lay-off due to injury, but it must be remembered that he would be coming back after a bad back and calf - amongst others - and whether it would allow him to bowl at full throttle is a big enough question-mark.
From amongst the batsmen, the Kiwis seem to have unearthed some rare tonkers of the cricket ball on their tour to Australia. Martin Guptill had had an auspicious start to his career with a century on debut, and should make it to the starting line-up, but the ones who could test the Indians would be the likes of Neil Broom, Grant Elliot and Jesse Ryder apart from the usual suspects in Oram and Brendon McCullum. On their part, both Broom and Elliot would be hoping that they don't get embroiled in any further controversial dismissals as they have had in the past against Australia and England respectively!
The one huge plus that both teams do have is their rather long batting line-up. If a Daniel Vettori would most definitely be the Kiwi number eight, India's middle and lower middle order would be where they could turn the game on its head. The explosive Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir should continue their reign at the top - now that Sachin Tendulkar has decided not to feature in this abbreviated form - but what follows next is as delicious as a Sourav Ganguly off-drive. A Yuvraj Singh, skipper Dhoni himself, and the irresistible Yusuf Pathan - who was also the MoM in India's last twenty20 - could very well take the match away from any opposition with their power-blazing, while Suresh Raina is an ideal Dravid-of-T20-cricket, around which the team could bat.
The only disadvantage that I perceive for this line-up is what was on view in the T20match in Sri Lanka as well; a possibility of a sense of complacency creeping in before the match has already been won.
The bowling, as mentioned earlier is in safe hands, but if the conditions are a little damp, one hopes that Dhoni wouldn't hesitate in getting in Praveen Kumar. On rightful pitches, Kumar can be as nasty as George Lohmann was in that era of matting wickets, which is why it is a real wonder that he did not make it to the test squad. With Harbhajan around, it is rather implausible that either of the two left-arm spinners, Pragyan Ojha or Ravindra Jadeja would make it to the starting eleven of the first match - two spinners a definite luxury in the Kiwiland - but if Dhoni did try to rotate the players around in the second match at Wellington, they could get their chance.
It is a different story altogether that it gets windier in Wellington, in turn dwindling the scope of going in with too many slow bowlers there either.