The Indian team’s alternative strategy in the absence of an injured Shikhar Dhawan will be put through a stern test by a feisty New Zealand attack ready to ask a few probing questions if weather does not play spoilsport in their World Cup encounter in Nottingham on Thursday.
The contest, which could be a curtailed one due to inclement weather, will have a quality Black Caps seam attack ready to make life difficult for a new opening pair that is likely to feature K.L. Rahul at the top alongside Rohit Sharma.
Dhawan has been ruled out of at least the next three games owing to a hairline fracture in his left thumb.
New Zealand have had a good record against India at global events. Kane Williamson’s men would be more than determined to win four-on-trot and maintain their pole position.
Dhawan has unintentionally forced Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri to go for a tactical rejig despite convincing performances in the first two games against South Africa and Australia.
If being forced to tinker with a successful opening combination that has cumulatively scored 4,681 runs is a bit unsettling, there is also a positive side to the Dhawan injury saga.
It has provided India with an opportunity to test how good their Plan B is.
Rahul’s probable elevation at the top will certainly bring Vijay Shankar and Dinesh Karthik into the picture as far as the No.4 slot is concerned.
Shankar’s all-round abilities are pitted against Karthik’s experience.
The thick cloud cover and damp conditions could also bring in Mohammed Shami into the equation at the expense of one of the wrist spinners.
In case both Shankar and Karthik find a place in the playing XI, then Kedar Jadhav will be the one to miss out.
The situation demands technical nous from skipper Kohli and more so from coach Ravi Shastri, known to be a shrewd tactical operator.
It couldn’t have been a more ideal time to go for such a rejig given that the tournament is still in its second week and one of the bounciest yet good batting tracks is on offer on Thursday.
This might not be the best of circumstances to open the batting but the talented Rahul will be determined to make this opportunity count.
Dealing with adversity separates men from boys and if Rahul is able to successfully play out a testing opening spell from Trent Boult, it could work wonders for his confidence going into the next set of games.
He would have a great reference point in the dynamic Rohit Sharma, who will be at the other end of the 22 yards.
The manner in which Rohit has transformed his game according to conditions has been more than commendable.For a compulsive stroke-player like Rohit, to eschew his ego and let the Powerplays go with minimum risk, is something that Rahul can learn.
It has paid dividends for the Indian vice captain and he has a hundred and a fifty to show for his efforts in the first two games.
The duo will be up against Boult, who is expected to bring the ball back into the right-handers.
He troubled the Indian batting in the warm-up game at the Oval, but that game happened when the team had just landed on English soil.
Nearly two and half weeks have gone by and Boult hasn’t got too much swing in the tournament proper even though his style of bowling is not dependent on conditions.
But Boult would not complain if he gets some assistance from the overcast conditions.
New Zealand’s “150kmph man” Lockie Ferguson is also happy that the Trent Bridge track promises to provide bounce that West Indies exploited against both Pakistan and Australia.
“West Indies have shown that there’s some extra bounce available at Trent Bridge and that can cause trouble. I am looking forward to the challenge as I like Trent Bridge as a ground,” said Ferguson, making it clear what he has on mind.
Match starts at 3 pm (IST).
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Shikhar Dhawan.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Tom Blundell (wk).