The second ODI of the three-match series between India and New Zealand, to be held in Pune on Wednesday, will be "a high-scoring affair", according to Pune curator Pandurang Salgaoncar.
Speaking to Firstpost ahead of the second ODI, Salgaoncar said the pitch would have good bounce and carry, ensuring that the ball comes onto the bat nicely.
Salgaoncar, a former Maharashtra fast bowler in the 1970s and 1980s, who has since been the curator at Pune, said that the pitch would be "a sporting wicket", which would favour batting.
The news would surely please the Indian team, who enter the second ODI, contrary to all explanations and expectations, 0-1 down. Keeping in mind the ruthlessness with which India had defeated their opponents in the last three series – a facile 3-1 win over the Windies, a 5-0 whitewash of neighbours Sri Lanka, succeeded by a 4-1 thrashing of Australia – the hosts' comprehensive defeat at the Wankhede on Sunday surely came as a surprise to many.
Usually, a single loss, that too in the first ODI of a bilateral series, wouldn't have raised too many alarms. However, with this being a three-match series instead of the usual five-match one, a single loss has put India's unblemished home record at stake.
If New Zealand end up winning the encounter at Pune, it will be India's first home series loss since South Africa defeated them 3-2, two years ago.
The ease with which the Kiwis handled the spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal should be a cause of worry for the Indian team. Kuldeep had a particularly ordinary day in the field at the Wankhede, as he ended up with figures of 10-0-64-1. While it would be too premature of the management to sideline Kuldeep after just one poor game, Axar Patel's presence in the reserves is likely to put some pressure on the Kanpur lad.
The Kiwis' conscious strategy to sweep the two Indian spinners ensured that Kuldeep and Chahal weren't able to choke the visitors in the middle overs, unlike against some of the other teams in the recent past.
"One thing that comes to me is the sweep that I have played throughout my career. It's something that I find easier to play than hitting down the ground," said the centurion from the last match, Tom Latham, on the eve of the Pune encounter.
Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuveshwar Kumar, India's premier pacers, didn't do much wrong and are expected to be in the playing XI, barring a freak injury before the start of the match.
On the batting front, Rohit Sharma would be eager to conquer his demons while facing left-arm pacers, something which has been pointed out time and again. Trent Boult bowled a brilliant opening spell in Mumbai and accounted for both the openers, something Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan would not like being repeated.
India's No 4 conundrum seems nowhere close to being solved, as Kedar Jadhav failed to make use of the promotion, while Dinesh Karthik also failed to capitalise on his start and gave away his wicket. Although the team management is likely to continue with Karthik for the series, a better score in Pune would surely make his case stronger for a longer run in the side.
For New Zealand, the match offers the chance of a rare series win in India, and their win in Mumbai has proved that the feat is not as improbable as it seemed at the start of the series.
Colin Munro's promotion to the top appears to have paid off for now, while his captain Kane Williamson would be itching to make a decisive impact on the match, after failing to get going in Mumbai, falling to the spin of Kuldeep.
In the middle order, Latham would undoubtedly be the key once again, and his ability to milk the bowling in the middle overs would surely come into the play against India again.
However, the only concern for the Kiwis, from the batting perspective, would be their untested lower middle-order trio of Henry Nicholls, Colin de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santner, who didn't get a bat in the first ODI.
On the bowling front, New Zealand would once again look up to the Tim Southee-Trent Boult pair for early breakthroughs, which proved crucial in the last match.
Santner too had a reasonable outing with his slow left-arm orthodox bowling in Mumbai, ending with figures of 10-0-41-1. He will once again be expected to stifle the Indian batsmen in the middle overs.
India: Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shardul Thakur.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (C), Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham (WK), Henry Nicholls, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, George Worker and Ish Sodhi.
Match begins at 1.30 pm IST.
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Latham said his counterpart, Pakistan captain Babar Azam, had been very excited about the tour.
The decision to hand over the white-ball captaincy to Sharma comes in the wake of Kohli’s decision to focus on his batting as India gears up for two World Cups – T20 and ODI, scheduled between 2022 and 2023 respectively.
The 34-year-old Ashwin last played white-ball cricket for India in 2017 before being sidelined from one-day cricket following the Champions Trophy.