“A World Cup final and then jump on a plane and here we are in India playing another one,” said Martin Guptill. Another plane and another match, he might now say. It’s going to be that kind of a series. We are at Ranchi now for the 2nd T20I on Friday.
While there will be a few jaded minds and bodies in both camps, having already given their all in the T20 World Cup—New Zealand played the final on 14 November in Dubai before playing the first T20I of their India tour on 17 November in Jaipur—cricket fans in Ranchi won’t complain. Ranchi isn’t a regular IPL venue. It hosted its last international, an ODI against Australia, in March 2019. The 50,000-capacity JSCA international stadium is gearing up for 3 hours of cricket festivities.
For India, this series presents an opportunity for some early rebuilding ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup. They ticked some boxes on Wednesday in Jaipur. Suryakumar Yadav is clearly being looked at as a middle overs enforcer with the bat. He did that with elan through his stroke-filled 62 in the first game and although his dismissal led to a late hustle to get over the finish line, captain Rohit Sharma did not mind him attempting the lap shot that crashed on to the stumps.
The late scramble in the run-chase came about as Rishab Pant at 4 and Shreyas Iyer at 5 lost some of the momentum, trying to go for too many cross batted swipes. “It’s a great learning for the guys, because they haven’t batted in that situation before for India,” Sharma said on Wednesday. “It’s for them to understand that it isn’t about power-hitting all the time. You put the ball to the left or right of the fielder and try and take singles or find boundaries.” Pant ultimately finished the game off with Venkatesh Iyer coming in to bat at no.6 in the final over, hitting a four and getting out. With Hardik Pandya out of favour, both Pant and Venkatesh will get more such opportunities.
With new beginnings for India’s head coach and captain, there is a fair bit of interest around everything India does in this series and the strategies they employ. New Zealand too will be looking at giving opportunities to new players. Mark Chapman, who played two T20 World Cups for Hong Kong before making his debut for New Zealand in 2018 (his father is from New Zealand), gave a good account of himself in Jaipur, scoring a measured 63 to give company to Guptill’s fiery opening act. 21-year-old allrounder Rachin Ravindra—his first name is derived from Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid—who has been coming up through New Zealand’s age group ranks, did not have much to do, but will be keen to make the most of this opportunity as some Kiwi players, including captain Kane Williamson, are resting through the T20s to come out fresh for the Test series.
The other set of cricketers who will be up for this series are seniors who looked off-colour in the World Cup. Bhuvneshwar Kumar for India and New Zealand’s Mitchell Santner both had forgettable World Cup campaigns but good outings in Jaipur. For Kumar to be able to get the ball to swing and shape in to get the opening wicket, bowl well at the death and outperform his partner Deepak Chahar would have given him a fair amount of confidence. Ravichandran Ashwin, since his re-inclusion in the Indian T20 mix is back bowling like a leader of the spin attack, again.