India vs New Zealand: Run feast awaits on Nehra's farewell

Will Ashish Nehra figure in the playing eleven? was the most frequently asked question at the Kotla. The 38-year-old pacer retires from all forms of the game after this match and that is the compelling debate dominating his farewell at his home ground.

Ashish Nehra's 18-year-long international career will come to an end on his home ground — Feroz Shah Kotla.   -  AFP

The low-key practice session said it all. The New Zealand team came in full strength while India preferred optional training ahead of the opening encounter of the three-match T20I series starting here on Thursday.

India has a poor T20I record against New Zealand – five losses in five. The onus obviously would be on India to correct the record. For Virat Kohli, it must rankle that New Zealand has looked invincible in a format that is accepted as the most popular form of the game in contemporary cricket.

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India has the strength. It must possess the will to stop an opposition which is well equipped and ready for a contest. “Everyone looks forward to playing Twenty20. It's a lot of fun and all the players enjoy it. We've been lucky enough in the last couple of years to be successful at it, so looking forward to the series. It should be a good one,” said a matter-of-fact Colin Munro.

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After some bitter competition in the one-day series, which India won 2-1, the shortest format is expected to generate greater excitement. It is best left to the players of both teams to produce the desired entertainment.

READ: Nehra: ‘If I do well, it’s news, if I don’t do well, bigger news’

It can be anyone’s day in T20. Such is the nature of the format that form and reputation hardly matter. A sweet little knock or a couple of wickets can swing the game and that attracts the fans to this aspect of cricket. The rising popularity of cricket in Test playing nations is often attributed to the result-oriented action-drama that marks T20.

 

Munro took stock of the impending engagements. “Obviously it's nice to have a three-match series. It's usually a one-off or two stalemate sort of a thing at the end, so there's plenty to play for. We've got a good record against India so we're looking forward to this.”

Will Ashish Nehra figure in the playing eleven? was the most frequently asked question at the Kotla. He retires from all forms of the game after this match and that is the compelling debate dominating his farewell at his home ground. As the senior most member of the team, he offers depth in bowling line-up and brings value to the team — just as veteran Mahendra Singh Dhoni in this youthful Indian team.

Hardik Pandya, with his free-flowing strokeplay, is the new crowd puller in the team, but only after Kohli. New Zealand too has a few. A run-feast on an amiable pitch awaits the cricket-loving citizens of the Capital.

KEY STATS

  • The Black Caps have taken on India five times before in T20I cricket; winning on each occasion, including two previous meetings in India (Chennai 2012 and Nagpur 2016).
  • New Zealand comes into this encounter having claimed victories in nine of its last 11 T20I outings (L2) whilst India has only lost eight times since the start of 2016 (W19).
  • India has never been involved in a T20I match at this Delhi venue before, the last such game to be hosted at Feroz Shah Kotla was the 2016 World T20 semifinal between New Zealand and England; the Black Caps suffered a seven-wicket defeat in that game.
  • Colin Munro struck 46 runs off only 32 balls in that game for New Zealand; he’s one of only four men to post a T20I century so far in 2017.
  • Virat Kohli (1,852) requires just 38 more runs to go 2nd in the all-time list of leading runscorers in T20I cricket; leapfrogging Sri Lanka’s Tillakaratne Dilshan (1,889).