Sometimes when the going gets tough on a tour, it's very difficult to lift yourselves. The mind might develop a typical thinking pattern. It translates into a habit. It becomes hard to motivate oneself before going into the next match, knowing that we have lost 'X' number of matches already. It's confidence sapping and that's where a spark is required, a spark that can lift the mood. The Kiwis needed that stimulus desperately after four losses on the India tour and they received it in Delhi. And after 36 days and five matches, they will go into a match on the back of a win and a different feeling, a feeling of relief.
As they head into the Mohali ODI, they would be looking to continue the momentum, especially when they have worked so hard to get that first win on the board. They would still be cautious given India's ability to bounce back, but somewhere down the line the confidence might have returned.
It might have definitely lifted the team spirit, but New Zealand pacer Tim Southee indicated that it wasn't much of a difference going into the Mohali ODI as they haven't been too bogged down by the past.
"The strength of our side is we don't get too far ahead of ourselves and we don't get too down when results don't go our way," Southee said in the pre-match conference. "We prepare the same way leading into every match. I don't think you can let what's happened in the game before influence what's happening in the game you're preparing for. Our preparation has been the same. We know it's a big game in terms of the series. We just got to get used to these conditions as quick as we can. They're going to be different to what they were in Delhi," he added.
The biggest positive for the visitors in the last match was the return to form of captain Kane Williamson who hit a timely ton. But they need to iron out their perennial problem on this tour - collapses. It was witnessed in the Test series on a consistent basis and then again in the Delhi ODI, where they went from 204/3 to 242/9. Williamson picked up and it's high time the other senior pros, Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor, wake up. The 12th man might have spent more time in the middle than the two combined. In the pre-match conference, Southee pressed on the fact that they need to adapt to the conditions quickly, given that things in Mohali will be quite different from Delhi.
"We've seen that starting is not particularly easy, it's about giving the player time to play a few balls and catching up later on. This wicket is going to be different so it may be different. It's about being smarter in the way we adapt to the conditions," Southee said.
Southee also put his weight behind Taylor and said that a big score is lurking around the corner.
"It's not an easy place to come, he's had a difficult Test series. But Ross (Taylor) is a class batsman. He's shown that for a number of years," Southee said. "As a cricket player, you go through form slumps. If you play the way he's played over the years, people expect him to score runs every tour, every time he goes to the crease. He's a quality player, he's not away from a big score. He's still working hard at the nets," he added.
It was their bowling, led by Trent Boult, that bailed them out in the last match. All-rounder Jimmy Neesham put in the hard yards in the nets and there is a possibility that he might replace Anton Devcich in the starting XI given that the Mohali wicket generally assists pace and bounce. Consistency in the batting department will be the key for the visitors.
India's winning habit was broken in Delhi and it will be interesting to see how they respond. One loss won't worry the hosts too much but getting back into the groove again will be important.
While a young and inexperienced bowling attack has impressed in the first two ODIs, finishing and building big partnerships is what they need to work on.
Hardik Pandya and Umesh Yadav revived India from troubled waters in the last match but couldn't help them past the finish line. Amit Mishra played a poor shot at an important juncture which proved to be crucial.
The lower-order, including Jasprit Bumrah, Amit Mishra and Umesh Yadav, were seen spending time batting in the nets
Mishra, however, asserted the fact that there is no shortage of finishers in the squad and that the youngsters are getting to learn the art batting with MS Dhoni.
"No, there are a lot of finishers in this team as well. It’s not that we don’t have any.We have the good mix of batsmen, bowlers and finishers," Mishra said in the pre-match conference. "It’s a good thing that Dhoni is coming up, he gets a chance to teach and help the youngsters learn the ropes. Like the last match's situation, if Dhoni stayed he would have finished the game with two-three overs to spare. There's a lot to learn even for the youngsters who play with him," he added.
The coach has also chipped in with valuable inputs for the tail-enders.
"Despite being a bowler himself he also hands out tips to the lower order especially tailenders which will be helpful in the crucial matches as to how to bat when you have a proper batsman around you and so on," he added.
The highest partnership India could manage in the Delhi ODI was 66 and it was the only fifty plus stand. Spending more time at the wicket will be the key. Dhoni had implied it after the Delhi ODI as well. "If you see there were quite a few partnerships, but we kept losing wickets after every partnership," India's limited-overs captain said in the post-match conference."It's not about one batsman, I felt we lost wickets throughout. Any batsman could have said that had I contributed 10 percent more we would have won the game. So it was the responsibility of the whole batting unit," he added.
While it is heartening to see the non-regulars in Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav strengthen their case from match to match, it serves as a wake up call to Ajinkya Rahane and Manish Pandey, who haven't clicked yet and have been getting out to poor shots. The fight for a place in the starting eleven will get hotter once Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul will return from injuries and this is where the contributions against New Zealand might prove to be the deciding factor.
Dhoni will be looking to get some runs under his belt. The bittersweet memories might return as it was at the PCA Stadium that he scored his last ODI century, three years ago, against Australia but ended up on the losing side. It's been a long century-drought for the captain and he would be looking to add to his tally of nine.
Suresh Raina hasn't fully recovered from the viral fever and didn't travel with the team to Mohali. Rohit Sharma, who suffered cramps to his left bicep after his dismissal in the last match, looked at ease in the nets and seems certain to play. India might yet again go unchanged into the match.
The Mohali wicket has produced runs but it has also had a history of assisting the pacers. The average first innings score on this ground is 261 and the team batting first has won 14 of the 22 matches. However, the dew might play a role and the toss will be crucial. And the Kiwis haven't won any on this tour.
Southee was happy to see some grass on the wicket but didn't want to over-analyse.
"It was nice to go out there and see some grass on the wicket but having played here a few times, it's traditionally pretty good for batsmen as well. I won't read too much into it. We'll turn up tomorrow (on the match day) and have another look at the wicket. It's still another afternoon of sun. We'll have a wait and look at it tomorrow(on the match day)," he said in the pre-match conference.
The two teams have never faced each other at this venue. New Zealand have played three games and won two at the PCA stadium while India have had a better record having won eight and lost five of the 13 matches, with three wins in the last four games.
India would be looking to recover from slight stutter while New Zealand would be looking to build on the confidence. Fans in Mohali might be in for a cracker.
MS Dhoni needs to score 22 more runs to become the third wicketkeeper to score 9000 runs in ODIs. Other two are Kumar Sangakkara (13341 runs) and Adam Gilchrist (9410 runs).
Virat Kohli needs to score 62 more runs to become the fastest player to score 3000 runs at home in ODIs. Currently, the record is held by Sourav Ganguly who completed 3000 runs at home in 70 ODI innings. Virat Kohli has scored 2938 runs from 62 ODI innings at home so far in his career.
Kane Williamson has now lost five consecutive tosses in ODIs as a captain of New Zealand. The last time he won a toss in ODIs against Sri Lanka on 31 December 2015.
Ground Stats and Facts:
Average first innings score: 261, Average second innings score: 224
Highest Total Chased: 322/6 (by Pakistan vs India on 08 November 2007)
Lowest Total Defended: 207/8 (by Australia vs West Indies on 14 March 1996)
Batting first won: 14 times, Batting second won: 8 times
Won Toss and batted First: 9 occasions (Won-5 & Lost-4)
Won Toss and fielded First: 13 occasions (Won-4 & Lost-9)
India’s Performance at Mohali in ODIs: (Most recent first)
L, W, W, W, L, L, L, W, W, L, W, W, W
(With stats inputs from Umang Pabri)