Time for Kishan, Hooda to fire as captain Pandya faces must-win situation against New Zealand

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Time for Kishan, Hooda to fire as captain Pandya faces must-win situation against New Zealand
Time for Kishan, Hooda to fire as captain Pandya faces must-win situation against New Zealand

India will have to raise their game a few notches as the Hardik Pandya-led side faces a must-win situation to level the three-match T20I series against New Zealand, in Lucknow on Sunday. India were caught in a spin web on the Ranchi pitch and lost the opener by 21 runs on Friday. The loss also highlighted India’s bowling profligacy, especially by the pace duo of Arshdeep Singh and Umran Malik. If tearaway pacer Malik conceded 16 runs in one over, Arshdeep leaked 27 runs in the last over, which put pressure on the India batters while chasing.

That expensive over from the young left-arm quick was the turning point as he was smashed for three sixes and a boundary.

India’s batters were off to an inauspicious start with the top-three managing just 15 runs. The hosts ended up scoring 155/9, which would have been a par score to defend on the wicket, as indicated by Washington Sundar after the match.

“150 would’ve been par and we would’ve been very happy with it,” the India all-rounder said.

Skipper Pandya, however, is unlikely to bring in uncapped pace bowler Mukesh Kumar for the second T20I and will probably back Arshdeep to bounce back.

While Shubman Gill, who has been in red-hot form in the ODIs, has played just four T20Is and is still learning the nuances of the shortest format, the big concern will be the two key batters — Ishan Kishan and Deepak Hooda.

Occupying the opening spot, Kishan is nowhere near the ominous form he showed while slamming a record-breaking ODI double-century against Bangladesh last December.

Since then, Ishan’s scores in the last seven innings in both ODIs and T20Is read 37, 2, 1, 5, 8 n.o., 17 and 4.

If one just considers the T20Is, it’s been a while since he last scored a fifty — against South Africa on June 14, 2022.

Hooda, too, hasn’t enjoyed much success as a lower middle-order batter and averages just 17.88 in the last 13 innings, with the highest being the unbeaten 41 against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede.

His innings of 10 runs from 10 balls at No. 7 on Friday lacked impact and the rotation of strike also came under scrutiny, especially when the New Zealand spinners were bowling.

While India are unlikely to try out newcomer Jitesh Sharma in the role of wicketkeeper-batter in the middle-order on Sunday, time is certainly running out for Hooda and Kishan.

Despite the loss on Friday, there was a huge positive for India in Washington Sundar, who not only bowled a tidy four overs of spin to take two wickets, but also emerged India’s topscorer with a 28-ball 50 batting at No. 6.

With No.1-ranked T20I batter Suryakumar Yadav in terrific form, India would need someone at the top of the order to raise their game and do some big hitting, given that the Ekana Stadium here has big boundaries.

The Kiwis, on the other hand, would look for another victory to secure a memorable series win in India. They will once again rely heavily on their in-form duo of Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell.

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