India looks to seal Twenty20 series sans local stars

Neither Cheteshwar Pujara nor Ravindra Jadeja will feature in the second Twenty20 between India and New Zealand at the SCA stadium at Rajkot, their home town. India leads the three-match series 1-0.

New Zealand's captain Kane Willamson (centre) with coach Mike Hesson (right) and Tim Southee at a practice session on Friday.   -  Vivek Bendre

This is the town where India’s two popular cricketers, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja cut their teeth in first-class cricket, made a big impact and advanced in their careers to play for the country with distinction. But Cheteshwar Pujara is typecast as a conventional Test match batsman and therefore does not fit into the scheme of things in the limited-over format, and Jadeja, a proven all-rounder and a brilliant fielder, too does not find a place in a national team in which he was not long ago regarded as part and parcel.

Hence, neither will feature in the second India-New Zealand Twenty20 international here on Saturday. The two are playing for Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy match against Jharkhand at Race Course where Pujara piled up 204 and Jadeja made 42, but did not find bowling success in the first innings.

The locals cannot probably stomach the reasons being hinted for Jadeja’s continued absence from the Indian team for the shorter formats of the game. But the fact remains that the Indian team under Virat Kohli has gone ahead with its business in the home internationals against Australia and New Zealand in an unperturbed manner, giving opportunities to the two wrist spinners in Yuzvendra Singh and Kuldeep Yadav and the Gujarat left-arm spinner, Axar Patel.

Moreover, with the team’s palpable intent of nurturing seamer all-rounder Hardik Pandya as a high-impact player, the likes of Jadeja and R. Ashwin may have to wait for the unexpected to happen to get a recall for the ODIs and Twenty20 internationals.

After its failed campaign in the ICC Champions Trophy, outplayed by Pakistan in the final at Lord’s, India has had its way against the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Australia and it is geared to put it across New Zealand in the best of three Twenty20 internationals. Kohli’s team has not been beaten after it went down to the visitor in Mumbai, but it knows that New Zealand has a number of players who have the wherewithal to do the tricks in order to win a match for their side, especially in the Twenty20 format in which it had not lost a match to India until Wednesday.

There was heavy activity around the match pitch at the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) on Friday with almost a dozen women workers using thick brooms to carry out mopping operations under the supervision of the BCCI curator, Vishvajitsinh Padhiar. From a distance, the pitch looked typically brown as against an adjacent pitch that had plenty of grass cover.

Generally, batsmen find the conditions suiting leather hunt in these parts. In the only Twenty20 international played here four years ago, Australia set India a target of 202 and Yuvraj Singh took his past the finishing line with two balls to spare, with a 57-ball unbeaten 77 - a knock that was decorated with eight fours and five sixes.

So those who decide to watch the match at the venue can expect of a treat from the batsmen and have some fun which is what Colin Munro described the format of Twenty20 as before the first match at the Feroz Shah Kotla.

The teams

India (from): Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan,  Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik, M. S. Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah,  Kuldeep Yadav, K. L. Rahul, Manish Pandey, Mohammed  Siraj.
 

New Zealand (from): Kane Williamson (c), Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Trent Boult, Tom Bruce, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Adam Milne, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi,  Tim Southee.

Play starts at 7 p.m.