Dharamsala: New Zealand will welcome back their most successful bowler and most destructive batsman Sunday at the start of a five-match ODI series against a below-strength India after a mauling in the Tests.
Tim Southee, whose 135 one-day wickets put him at the top of the chart of New Zealand’s current players, missed the recent three-match Test series with an ankle injury as his team-mates were whitewashed by their hosts.
But the 27-year-old’s return should give the Black Caps a much-needed boost for the series opener in the Himalayan hill station of Dharamsala where the chillier conditions will be far more familiar for the tourists.
Corey Anderson, who has the highest strike of any New Zealand player in ODI history, is back from an ankle injury to bolster the batting at a ground where New Zealand enjoyed one of their most satisfying recent wins.
Back in March, New Zealand beat arch rivals Australia at the picturesque Dharamasala ground by eight runs in the World Twenty20, gaining a measure of revenge for their defeat in last year’s 50 over World Cup final.
Anderson and Southee’s return gives a more experienced look to a tour party which coach Mike Hesson admits are “in a trough” and need “to move on pretty quickly” from their Test disappointment.
Southee, who has not played an ODI for New Zealand this year, said “the guys were hurting a bit” after the Test disappointment but predicted a close ODI series which he was particularly looking forward to.
“It’s never nice to be injured and having to watch so it’s exciting to get back out there,” he told New Zealand Cricket’s website.
“We can’t dwell on it [the defeat in the Tests] too much, we have an important one day series ahead that everyone is looking forward to and I think [it] will be a very evenly contested one day series.
“We’ve shown in the last wee while that we’re a good one day side and we’re looking to always improve that record away from home as well and there’s no better place to do it than in one of the harder places to tour.”
While the return of Southee gives New Zealand more options, their hosts will be hampered by the absence of several of their leading bowlers.
Key spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are being rested for the first three matches as is paceman Mohammad Shami who is building up his fitness after a long lay-off.
Medium pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, nursing a back strain, was also left out of the squad along with veteran Ishant Sharma who missed the whole series after contracting the mosquito-borne disease chikungunya.
Uncapped off-spinner Jayant Yadav, left-arm spinner Axar Patel and medium-pacer Jasprit Bumrah have instead been given the chance to impress after being named in the squad.
And India’s batting line-up has been weakened by the loss of veteran Suresh Raina with a viral infection and the opener Shikhar Dhawan, who has a broken thumb.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni will return to lead the side, meaning Test captain Virat Kohli goes back into the ranks, his confidence high after hitting a career best 211 against the Black Caps last weekend.
Dhoni, whose last significant ODI innings was an unbeaten 92 against South Africa in October 2015, needs a strong showing to silence critics who say it’s time for Kohli to take over in short-form cricket as well.
India reclaimed the top spot in the Test rankings after clinching the series against New Zealand but they are only ranked fourth in the ODI league table, one place behind their visitors.
Dhoni’s men were outplayed by the Black Caps in their last ODI series, losing 4-0 in New Zealand in 2014.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Manish Pandey, Jayant Yadav, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Kedar Jhadav, Mandeep Singh, Amit Mishra, Dhawal Kulkarni, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya