It has been almost a decade since the Shaheed Veer Narayan International Cricket Stadium first hosted an Indian Premier League game. Still, the big game buzz is loudest in and around the Chhattisgarh capital.
It may sound as unbelievable as Michael Bracewell’s whirlwind knock in the series-opener in Hyderabad. But the stadium will host its maiden international game — also the first List A match — when India takes on New Zealand on Saturday in a bid to seal yet another bilateral ODI series.
While the fake jersey sellers were in action, with the locals bargaining big time with the street-side vendors, the ones that will be fortunate to enter the colossal stadium - with a capacity of 65,000 - will be hoping for the Indian team to continue its fireworks over the weekend.
Shubman Gill - the double-centurion on Wednesday - skipped India’s optional training session on Friday under the lights along with Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Suryakumar Yadav. If Gill can register a hat-trick of centuries, it will hold India in good stead.
Captain Rohit Sharma, who had a long session in the nets facing throwdowns and spinners, will be eager to get his year going with the willow. But more than his own form, the captain will be hoping for the lesser-experienced bowling group to pull up its socks.
No doubt the dew in Hyderabad was a factor. But the moment Bracewell started going after them, India’s bowlers’ plans went for a toss. It resulted in Bracewell and Mitchell Santner giving India a scare while chasing a target of 350.
It will be interesting to see if India picks Umran Malik on a track that’s unlikely to offer as much bounce as Hyderabad. Malik, having missed the previous two ODIs, was spewing venom at Ishan Kishan during his short burst in the nets. Should India choose Malik, it will have to be at the expense of Shardul Thakur, who bowled a commendable last over in Hyderabad two days back.
New Zealand, meanwhile, will have a tough choice to make with regard to its team combination. Ish Sodhi, the seasoned leggie, had a long spell in the nets in the afternoon after missing the series opener due to a niggle. With Santner and Bracewell sizzling as allrounders, fitting Sodhi into the team will be a challenge for captain Tom Latham.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan (wk), Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, KS Bharat (wk), Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Washington Sundar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Shardul Thakur, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Umran Malik.
New Zealand: Tom Latham (captain), Finn Allen, Doug Bracewell, Michael Bracewell, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Jacob Duffy, Lockie Ferguson, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Henry Shipley, Ish Sodhi, Blair Tickner.
Match starts 1.30 PM IST.