Free Press Journal

Eyes Set On Another Big Win


Team India ready to dominate New Zealand once again

New Delhi : Limited over captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be eager to regain his golden touch even as Virat Kohli eyes another smashing knock at his home ground when favourites India lock horns with an hapless New Zealand in the second ODI today.

It may be just another ODI in a bilateral series, but there is lot at stake for Dhoni, who has been under pressure after Test skipper Virat Kohli led India to the number one ranking following a 3-0 whitewash.

With India up 1-0 in the five-match series, Dhoni and his men would like to reassert themselves at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in order to further consolidate their lead.

It is expected that Dhoni would not tinker much with the playing XI from last game with Suresh Raina, who missed the opening match, being ruled out of the second ODI as well after failing to recover from a bout of viral fever.

At the face of it, there is apparently no danger to Dhoni’s captaincy since the team is still winning matches. But if one digs deeper, Virat has slowly and surely been the man everyone is looking forward to as a leader.

A ‘Clean Sweep’ in Test series with a career-best double hundred, followed by an effortless 85 Not out in first ODI, Kohli has time and again showed as to how it is done “leading from the front.”

For Dhoni, it’s now about showing the world that he is far from being dubbed as a spent force in limited overs after earning sobriquet of ‘Best Finisher” some years back.

While Kane Williamson’s ‘Black Caps’ is struggling to stay afloat in the series, India’s ‘Captain Cool’ is fighting a different battle to remain the ‘supreme’ commander’ of ‘Men In Blue’.

Dhoni is still supremely fit and agile behind the stumps. His captaincy acumen cannot be questioned. Testimony to that is Hardik Pandya opening the bowling and Kedar Jadhav filling in the role of a part time off-spinner. But then runs aren’t exactly coming from his bat. The big hits aren’t being executed with perfection that used to be his hallmark a few years ago.

He was run out for 21 in the last game and although that didn’t affect the outcome of the match in any way, but the skipper knows only too well that he has to play a few impact innings in coming weeks.

No wonder Dhoni’s intensity while batting at Kotla nets during an optional session was there to be seen. For the record, he needs another 61 runs to complete 9000 ODI runs. But there must be a lingering shadow of Virat standing right behind him.

A 3-0 Test series victory has set a benchmark. Now Dhoni would like to ideally win the series 5-0 against a New Zealand side. A blip here or a hiccup there would invite more criticism as people take it for granted that India will win hands down against New Zealand.

From a team’s perspective, Indians have settled down into a nice rhythm. The last match was a cakewalk. Umesh Yadav, Pandya, Mishra and Jadhav all chipped in with vital breakthroughs. Axar Patel and Jasprit Bumrah didn’t get wickets.

Still 4 games to go: Boult

Despite facing a whitewash in the three-match Test series and then a heart-wrenching defeat in the first ODI in Dharamsala, New Zealand pacer Trent Boult has admitted “it’s been a tough learning experience” for the visitors, while asserting that the mood in the camp is positive and his teammates are looking forward to the challenge.

Addressing a press conference on the eve of the second ODI of the five-match series at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Boult said, “Obviously it hadn’t gone as we have liked it to be. It’s been a tough learning experience in Test match series and a severe defeat in Dharamsala, the other night. The mood in the camp is positive and guys are looking forward to the challenge. It’s a five match series and there are four more matches up for grabs and an opportunity for us to right a few wrongs in our performances.”

While Boult didn’t point fingers at any particular batsmen, he said that a collective effort was needed from the team after an indifferent tour so far.

“As a unit, we are looking to get more runs. If we get more runs on the board, we can put more scoreboard pressure on a good Indian side. I am not going to single anyone out in terms of their performance, but they should contribute with the bat, bowl and in the field. Try and put in more energy, that’s what we are trying to do,” he said.

The Kane Williamson-led side didn’t perform well with the bat and put up just 190 runs in the opening match, a total which the Men in Blue chased down in just 33.1 overs.

“We are looking to get more runs, as basic as it sounds. If we could put more runs on (the) board we could offer more scoreboard pressure on a good Indian side,”

The left-arm pacer also asserted that it would be difficult to find a charismatic leader like Brendon McCullum while admitting that the current skipper is going “through pretty tough time” as a captain.

“Kane is a very classy player and has been ranked as a top batsman for a reason. In a way, he has had pretty tough time walking into the role of the captaincy. It has been a learning experience for the whole team to be honest. The way Brendon led the team both in terms of captaincy and the bat, I don’t think anyone could do it as well as he did it,” he said.

 “He set his own tone. We all know what kind of explosive batsman he is. But we are stacked up with lot of quality players in the side and at the moment we need all of them to stand up and put in good performance,” he added.

It should be noted that Mahendra Singh Dhoni has won five out the six ODIs as captain at the Feroz Shah Kotla with one match getting abandoned because of bad pitch. ANI