Focus on Hardik inclusion as India aiming to seal series

Vastavam web: A well-deserved break on the cards, India captain Virat Kohli will be aiming to seal the five-match series when his team square off against a confused New Zealand in the third ODI here Monday. The Indian captain has been given a break as part of BCCI’s workload management programme and he would ensure that he finishes his assignment Down Under on a high after the maiden Test and ODI victories in Australia. An unassailable 3-0 lead would be a fitting revenge to India’s abject 0-4 humiliation during the 2014 limited overs series. The Baroda all rounder’s replacement Vijay Shankar is a decent cricketer but is yet to possess the X factor that Pandya has. That Shankar was given only two overs in the second ODI is an example that he is still not ready to shoulder extra responsibility.

Pandya is a few clicks quicker than Shankar whose bowling in the three ODIs that he has played has not been penetrative. Pandya can also bat at No 6 if situation arises and his busy approach in batting can also get the scoreboard ticking in middle overs as the skipper wants. Otherwise Indian team doesn’t require much tinkering. Kuldeep has looked the most menacing as he claimed two four-wicket hauls in the first two ODIs, while Chahal returned with two wickets on both the matches.

Seamers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami also have done their job well, getting crucial breakthroughs for the team. India’s batting too have complemented the bowlers, looking rock solid in both the games with Shikhar Dhawan’s return to form lending the team the much-needed support at the top. If he had scored an unbeaten 75 in the first ODI, he cracked a 67-ball 66 in the second game. Once Kohli takes a break following the third ODI, Dinesh Karthik might get a place to boost the middle-order in the skipper’s absence.

The team management might also think of handing an India debut to the very talented Shubman Gill. For Black Caps, captain Kane Williamson, who had top-scored in the first ODI, looked good during his short stay in the second ODI, while all-rounder Doug Bracewell tried to take the game to the wires with a 46-ball 57 but none of the other batters could convert their starts. “There’s two games in a row now where we’ve not had control at any stage, but we need to take small steps,’ Williamson said. “Some of the dismissals were a result of us going too hard maybe. If you have wickets in hand, you never know. But we didn’t have wickets in hand. Those are the lessons that we need to take ahead.”