Will India score face-saving win in fifth New Zealand ODI?
Having already conceded a 3-0 lead, India will look end the One-Day series against New Zealand on a positive note by winning the fifth and final match in Wellington on Friday.
Dethroned from the No 1 ranking, victory at the Westpac Stadium will enable the World champions restore some lost pride and have something to show, as the team has been on a royal freefall since their departure in early December for the two overseas tours.
In seven ODIs since, they are yet to win a single match, having lost five and tied one (one no-result). If they indeed want to register their first win across all formats in nearly two months, they need to view this fifth ODI in singularity and not as part of the already lost contest.
In a desperate bid to come back in the series, India made several changes to the team in the fourth ODI at SeddonPark, but most of them didn't work out as intended.
Image: MS Dhoni of India celebrates with teammates Ravichandran Ashwin, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane after dismissing Corey Anderson of New Zealand
Photographs: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images
Rayudu could keep his place and Dhawan may get another chance
It’s high time that the team think-tank addresses the various issues that have plagued the team in the last two limited-overs series, in South Africa previously and now in New Zealand.
There are many questions that need to be answered, and, like always, it begins at the top.
In his post-match comments, after the fourth ODI loss, Dhoni stated that the team needed to "rest players and allow them time to think about their game", thus justifying the axing of Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina for that game.
He also highlighted the team management's decision to "keep playing Ajinkya Rahane in the middle order" and "Virat Kohli's move up the order was only a one-off thing".
But considering the move in the fourth ODI misfired, Dhawan may find his way back to the openers’ slot. The move will be supported by the fact that Rohit Sharma has finally found his touch, converting a start into a crucial 79 runs in the last match.
Also, Stuart Binny could sit out after a not-too-noticeable debut, because Ambati Rayudu looked good in his cameo knock of 37 runs at number four.
Suresh Raina has so far been given a very long rope and Dhoni has always stressed on the "need to learn from mistakes".
Image: Ambati Rayudu
Photographs: Phil Walter/Getty Images
Shami is Dhoni's No 1 strike bowler
In the bowling attack, Amit Mishra was seen warming up in the nets on Thursday and could replace an off-colour R Ashwin.
Mishra was given the odd chance to play against Australia in the ODIs in October and then consigned to the bench again after being smacked for 0-78 in that one outing.
He did play all five ODIs in Zimbabwe earlier, when Ashwin was rested, and took 18 wickets there. It may not be of much consequence, but in those very matches, Jadeja -- India's best spinner at the moment -- only picked five wickets.
Mohammad Shami has been a work-horse for the team on the two tours, taken wickets and also contained the opposition batsmen.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been off-colour while Varun Aaron seems quite raw on his return to international cricket.
Thus, considering that, Ishwar Pandey, who is also part of the Test squad, may get a look-in.
Image: Mohammad Shami
Photographs: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images
New Zealand ready to unleash 22-year-old pacer Henry
With the series in the pocket, New Zealand may look to experiment with their line-up.
Twenty-two-year-old pacer Matt Henry has been drafted into their squad as a late addition, since Corey Anderson and Tim Southee are both carrying niggles.
Anderson missed the last match in Hamilton. Both he and Southee are in the Test squad as well, thus making this an obvious move on their selectors' part.
Only time will tell if untested Henry, who bowls at speeds of nearly 90 miles an hour, will get his chance to test the Indian batsmen on Friday.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Stuart Binny, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishwar Pandey, Varun Aaron, Amit Mishra.
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (capt), Corey Anderson, Martin Guptill, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, James Neesham, Luke Ronchi (wk), Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Hamish Bennett, Matt Henry.
Match starts: 6.30 am IST
Image: Matt Henry
Photographs: Joseph Johnson/Getty Images