After a long and eventful T20 ride, the Indian team will get a welcome respite and grapple with the needs of a different format for the next week. The three-match ODI series against New Zealand which begins on Friday will mark the start of preparations for next year’s World Cup.

India will be keen to avenge its 3-0 defeat against New Zealand in 2020. Exactly 11 months are left for the World Cup in India and the series starting on Friday will give the team an initial idea about some of the middle-order slots and the bowling arsenal in India’s armoury. With five seniors — skipper Rohit Sharma, the talismanic Virat Kohli, team management’s favourite K. L. Rahul, pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, and No. 1 ODI all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja — not part of this series, the management can only get a rough idea of the direction in which the team would move.

All these big guns will now play a lot of ODI cricket, starting with the Bangladesh series, and the team combination will change considerably once they all come back in due course. Indian coach Rahul Dravid will have a lot on his plate. But for now, his understudy V. V. S. Laxman also needs to do some tight-rope walking as far as this series is concerned.

Who will be India’s openers?

Dhawan will be close to 38 during next year’s World Cup. He has scored nearly 1,000 runs in ODIs in the last two years. This is the only international format he plays. Since T20 has more precedence, his appearances for India have been pretty sporadic. To put things in perspective, both Kohli and Rohit have played one-third of the number of ODIs that Dhawan played as they concentrated more on Tests and T20Is.

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Meanwhile, Shubman Gill has shown his prowess as an ODI opener in a dozen games he has played so far — he has an average of 57-plus and a strike rate of 100-plus. But even in this format, Dhawan has been a cautious starter in Powerplays and then picked up the pace. The team’s philosophy will be the main consideration along with a decision on whether the Delhi southpaw would be persisted for the next one year with Rohit, Rahul and Gill also there.

Rahul, in ODIs, has started batting down the order at times and Shreyas Iyer has been one of India’s consistent ODI players despite his problems with the short ball. Suryakumar Yadav, who is in the form of his life, can’t be dropped from the middle order if he is fit to play. Sanju Samson, the phenomenal talent from Kerala who possesses a wide range of strokes, can’t be ignored for a long time either. Deepak Hooda is in the fray, too, as he brings his all-round skills to the table.

Bowling attack for three ODIs

There are three 50-over games in a space of five days in New Zealand and the recovery period for fast bowlers will be paramount. Deepak Chahar is expected to start and is likely to have the seasoned Shardul Thakur for company since both offer decent batting option lower down the order.

Arshdeep Singh is likely to be the third option, but he has been constantly playing so there could be a chance to test Kuldeep Sen or Umran Malik. The flip side is short ground. There is every chance that their pace could become a disadvantage.

Washington Sundar is also likely to be in the playing XI and due to the short dimensions of Eden Park ground, with its awkward angles, Dhawan might prefer an extra pacer instead of an extra spinner.

New Zealand’s core for the series is more or less the same as the T20s. With swing bowler Tim Southee, tearaway quicks Adam Milne, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, and spinner Mitchell Santner in its ranks, the home teams’ attack looks formidable on paper. Add to it all-rounders Daryl Mitchell and Jimmy Neesham, who are more than decent with their capability of bowling full 10 overs by themselves, the attack wears an even more menacing look.

Squads

India: Shikhar Dhawan (captain), Shubman Gill, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Deepak Hooda, Shahbaz Ahmed, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Deepak Chahar, Arshdeep Singh, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Sen, Umran Malik.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Finn Allen, Devin Conway, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Glenn Phillips, Michael Bracewell, Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Adam Milne, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Lockie Ferguson.

Match Starts: 7 am IST.

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