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Published On: Tue, Jan 22nd, 2019

Kohli & team Brace for Kiwi Test as 2019 World Cup Looms Large

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viratNEW DELHI: In all likelihood, this will be a sterner Test for Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team. One, it will be longer – five One-Day Internationals compared to the three against Australia. Two, New Zealand are ranked No. 3 and are a team in form, unlike Australia who haven’t won an ODI series in two years.He has also been named the captain of the ICC Test and ODI teams of the year for a fabulous run in international cricket,” the ICC said in a statement.
The 30-year-old has also been named captain of ICC’s Test and ODI teams of 2018 for a fabulous run in international cricket. Kohli scored 1,322 runs at an average of 55.08 in 13 Tests with five hundreds during the calendar year while in 14 ODIs he amassed 1202 runs at an astonishing average of 133.55 with six centuries. He also scored 211 runs in 10 T20Is.
India’s only other ODI assignment before the World Cup is a home series against Australia, which, going by form and history, shouldn’t be much of a challenge. Thus, this New Zealand series will likely be the last set of games for India to test their combinations in largely like-for-like conditions to the ones they will face in England. It’s the same for New Zealand, whose only other ODI hit out will be a three-match series against Bangladesh at home.
To make things more competitive, things are falling in place for both sides going into the series. India are very close to identifying their starting XI for the World Cup; after months of testing, they’ve finally got an in-form middle order. A lot of that has to do with MS Dhoni’s form.

The former captain was the Player of the Series with three successive half-centuries, silencing questions on his place in the side. More importantly, India are getting close to identifying the perfect role for him: Numbers 4 and 5 suit him much better than Number 6. Dhoni is the ideal batsman to have in situations when run-rate is not the primary concern, at least initially.

For that, though, India have had to adjust the roles of others in the side. Ambati Rayudu was left out for the last ODI against Australia after two failures. Dinesh Karthik has been made the designated finisher.
Kedar Jadhav batted at No. 5 in the only ODI he played, and scored a match-winning half-century. India will be glad that Dhoni, Jadhav and Karthik scored crucial runs in Australia; it means they don’t always have to rely on the top three.
But the top three very much remains the heart of the batting unit. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli scored centuries in the ODI series, and India will want Shikhar Dhawan too to join the party in New Zealand.
India will also hope to be put in different situations – they batted second in all three Australia ODIs, and will want to test their combinations for when they bat first. Five ODIs against a top class bowling unit should test the Indian batting line-up to the fullest.
The New Zealand series will also be about testing back-ups. Vijay Shankar, the replacement for Hardik Pandya, made his ODI debut in Melbourne but didn’t have much to do. India will also have Shubman Gill as the third opener in New Zealand. The Australia series also possibly made India take another step towards confirming their third pacer. Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Siraj were expensive in their opportunities they got, while Mohammed Shami grabbed his chances with tidy spells.

In all likelihood, he will partner Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah in the World Cup. India will want to confirm that in New Zealand and also hope the likes of Khaleel and Siraj find form. The man who will have to lead India’s charge is Bhuvneshwar, given the conditions will be perfect for him. The spin unit is as set as it can get. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal are threats wherever they play, with Ravindra Jadeja too playing a part.(With Agency Inputs ).

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