India have as settled a lineup as you can get in the T20 format, with the bulk of the work in the Asia Cup done by that we-know-what-we-are-going-to-get-from-them playing XI. MS Dhoni is likely to go with the same combination as India prepare to face New Zealand in the ICC World T20 2016 opener.
Going as the favourites into a tournament as high profile as a T20 World Cup is never easy, as it ramps up the pressure on the side, with everyone expecting them to waltz into the semifinals. Considering India are in the tougher of the two groups, that waltz might not happen that easily, so what Dhoni’s men need to concentrate on is just getting “Job A” done, which is beat New Zealand at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur Tuesday.
To do that, Dhoni will look to the personnel that impressed so much in the series’ against Australia and Sri Lanka as well as the Asia Cup. So, that should mean five batsmen, Dhoni, the fast bowling all-rounder, two spinners and two fast bowlers.
Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli – India’s batting top three – is what will make or break this side. If they stay in form through the World T20, India will win more games than not; but if they fail to find their groove in the big stage, then the India batting will be tested.
However, with the way the bowlers have been going, even if the batting struggles, there is enough ammunition in the bowling department, for India to win games. The spinners – R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja – have been doing well, while Ashish Nehra has been picking up wickets up front.
Hardik Pandya has done his all-rounder’s job well, with Jasprit Bumrah doing the business, both at the beginning of the innings and at the death. With Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina able to roll their arms over with some spin as well, Dhoni has enough options to play with. He might use them too, with the pitch at the VCA Stadium expected to be slow and low, one that will aid the spin bowlers, if any bowlers at all.
The same will be key for New Zealand as well – options. Kane Williamson, while trying to prove he is the right man to lead this Kiwi side post the Brendon McCullum era, will also hope his bowlers step up to the plate against this strong India batting lineup. Mitchell McClenaghan might get the nod ahead of Adam Milne, because of the left-armer’s experience of playing in the IPL, but then Williamson might also think of going the other way, owing to Milne’s pace.
Whether the spinners – and New Zealand are likely to pick just one of Ish Sodhi, Nathan McCullum and Mitchell Santner – can do their jobs time will tell, but the make-or-break for the Black Caps will be the batting.
Martin Guptill, Williamson, Colin Munro, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Grant Elliott, Luke Ronchi – that is a pretty scary batting lineup, and that lineup will need to fire against India. They will have a good chance of doing that too, with the pitch expected to be a batting beauty, even if it might be a little on the slower side.
Expected playing XI: India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (C), Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Ashish Nehra, Jasprit Bumrah.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson (C), Colin Munro, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Grant Elliott, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan, Trent Boult.