Virat Kohli-led India will begin their tour of New Zealand with the first T20I to be played at Eden Park in Auckland on 24 January. The team will play five T20Is against the Kiwis, followed by three ODIs and two Test matches. There will also be a three-day practice match before the start of the Tests.
For the T20Is, the Indian selectors have chosen a strong squad which includes the likes of Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, all of whom did well in the recently-concluded three-match ODI series against Australia. Shikhar Dhawan was initially named in the T20I squad but a shoulder injury rules him out and he's replaced by Sanju Samson.
For New Zealand, some of their key players will be missing the T20Is because of injuries. Fast-bowlers Trent Boult, Matt Henry, and Lockie Ferguson will not feature in the series while Jimmy Neesham is also out due to a thigh injury. Kane Williamson makes his return to the shortest format after missing the series against England last year because of a hip injury.
Still, New Zealand have the personnel who can play a significant part in the series. Here, we take a look at some of the Kiwi players to watch out for in T20I series:
The skipper will play in a T20I series for the first time since February 2019. The last time he participated in a T20I match was against India when the visitors toured the country in 2019. Considering 2020 is a World Cup year, it was clear that he would return to the squad and lead the team. Williamson faced a setback as a captain and batsman in the recent Test series against Australia but there's no debate about his quality in both the departments.
Williamson's experience in T20 matches is a big plus. He played as 57 T20Is and scored at an average of 31 with a strike rate of 121. The numbers are not breathtaking when compared to his ODI and Test figures, but he's still a major threat to any team. His record in the Indian Premier League is a testament to his abilities in the shortest format of the game. Williamson also averages around 40 in home T20I matches. Williamson might take time to hit the strides since he hasn't played in this format for some time but this is a five-match series and he can bounce back in the remaining matches. As a batsman, he's the best in the line-up and as a captain, he's the right man. Watch out for him.
Seifert showed his big-hitting prowess during the last series with India in New Zealand. In the first T20I on 6 February 2019, Seifert smashed 84 from just 43 balls, hitting seven fours and six sixes. Because of the knock, he ended up being the highest run-getter in the series. It was apparent that Seifert is a wicketkeeper-batsman in the mould of Brendon McCullum.
Since that series, Seifert had his problems with consistency. In fact after playing that knock against India, Seifert never made another T20I half-century. Yet, he can change the course of the match once he gets going. His form in the recently-concluded Super Smash T20 competition was pretty good. He scored 323 runs in eight innings at an average of 40 and a strike rate of 140. He'll be under pressure to perform in the upcoming series and it's about time he lives up to his potential.
The New Zealand pacer has been recalled into the national squad for the first time in three years. He finds himself in the team mostly because of injuries to key bowlers, but he has also performed in the Super Smash for Wellington team. He was a vital part of the team that clinched the title and also played an instrumental role with the ball in the final, picking three crucial wickets. Bennett ended up taking 17 wickets at an average of 17 in the tournament.
Bennett made his debut for New Zealand in an ODI against Bangladesh. This happened nine years back and so far, he could play only in 16 ODIs and a single Test. His was selected for the 2011 World Cup but then it took him three more years to play another match after the tournament. Injuries were also a consistent feature in his career.
With New Zealand missing their first choice pacers, Bennett has a perfect platform to prove his worth again. If he can carry the form from Super Smash to the T20I series, then he could be a good option for the Kiwis in the World Cup later this year.
The 28-year-old all-rounder made his T20I debut against India in 2019 but he was unremarkable in the series. Later, he went on to play eight more T20Is for his national team but he hasn't done anything significant in the format. Mitchell may not be as potent as Colin de Grandhomme when it comes to quick runs, but he can up the ante with some big hits. In the Super Smash tournament, Mitchell was the second-highest run-getter for Northern Districts and he boasted a strike rate of 146.
Mitchell's bowling has also improved over time. His bowling average in the Super Smash tournament was mere 19. De Grandhomme will only play the first three matches of the T20I series, so that mean Mitchell will have his chance in the playing XI. An impressive display against a strong Indian side could play a huge role in his career.
The left-arm spinner has evolved into a match-winner for his national team. Even if he has to bowl for only four overs in the T20 format, Santner could turn the match around with his spell. He's not a big turner of the ball, but he can slow things down and has a knack of breaking partnerships. Santner is an asset to his team, not only making his mark with bowling but can also be a useful lower-order batsman.
His records in T20Is are noteworthy. His bowling average is just 18 from 39 matches, and he has picked up 49 wickets. His bowling economy figure reads 7.20, which is good according to the T20 standards. In New Zealand's last T20I series against England, Santner was the highest wicket-taker – 11 with an average of 12.81. His familiarity with the conditions will also help his cause and he will relish the battle against the mighty Indian batting line-up. Unless there's injury, he will play in all five T20Is and he'll have his plans ready for the Indian big hitters.
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