The Big Picture
And, so, after a historic tour Down Under, Virat Kohli's men move to the other side of the Trans-Tasman to lock horns with New Zealand in a five-match ODI series followed by a 3-match T20I series.
With the 2019 World Cup looming, you'd believe the ODI series has a wider context attached to it, for, by the end of it, both sides will have a clear picture in terms of team combination and balance.
The domination of the Big-3
If you look at two sides and their success since the 2015 World Cup, there is an uncanny similarity to the template that they've followed. Yeah, you read that right- the success of their trio of Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, and Martin Guptill.
Just like, India' top-3 in Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, and Virat Kohli have been the cornerstone of their sides' success post the 2015 World Cup, scoring 52.06 percent  of their team's runs in 179 innings, the trio of Taylor, Guptill, and Williamson have scored a major chunk of New Zealand's runs -46.36 percent  in 159 innings at an average of 54.29, suggesting it will be battle between the trio of both sides that will dictate the narrative of the series.
From India's perspective, Ross Taylor will be a major threat. 137, 90, 54, 86*, 80, 181* - so read his six most-recent scores. The swashbuckling middle-order is in the form of his life in the 50-over format of the game and is second only to Virat Kohli in terms of average. While Kohli averages 81.87 in 61 matches since the 2015 World Cup, Taylor averages 69.72 during the same period.
Taylor enjoys batting against the Indians. Last time India was in New Zealand, the right-hander played a pivotal part along with Kane Williamson to inflict a 0-4 drubbing on the visitors as he averaged 85.75 in five matches. The major strength of Taylor and Williamson is their ability to maneuver the strike in the middle-overs which is why it will be interesting to see if Kohli plays both Kuldeep and Chahal in the playing 11.
Speaking of the 2014 tour, Rohit Sharma [averages 38.28] has had his fair share of struggles against the Kiwis, and how he fares against a formidable opening duo of Tim Southee and Trent Boult, keeping in mind, India's unsettled middle-order will be key.
Where should Dhoni bat? Kuldeep-Chahal, together?
MS Dhoni batted at Number 4 in the last ODI against Australia. But, with Virat Kohli stating his penchant of batting Dhoni at No.5, the move looks one off. Dhoni enjoys batting against the Kiwis. He scored four 50s in the 2014 hour and it will be interesting to see where he bats in the series.
Dhoni batting at No.4 gives India a perfect balance for they can have Jadhav and Vijay Shankar in 11 while mulling over the prospect of playing both the spin-twins in Kuldeep and Chahal. New Zealand has a quality middle-order in Williamson, Taylor, Latham, and Nicholls and with pitches expected to be batting friendly, the duo of Kuldeep and Chahal could turn out to be the X-factor in the middle-overs.
The home side is bolstered by the return of Mitchell Santner but will miss the services of all-rounder Jimmy Neesham, who is still recovering from injury. Neesham made his return to the national side against Sri Lanka on the back of stupendous performances in the Ford Trophy where he racked up 503 runs and claimed 13 wickets. Neesham's absence means Santner and de Granddhomme will be in a direct shoot out for the all-rounder's spot while Ferguson, Southee, Boult, and Sodhi will complete the four-man attack.
It is a battle between India's top-3 and the home side's trio of Taylor, Williamson, and Guptill but the narrative of the series will be dominated two sub-plots: how the Black Caps middle-order counter India's spinners and secondly the way the tourists middle-order responds to pressure especially in a run-chase.
Where- McLean Park, Napier
When- Wednesday, January 23, 2018, 07:30 AM IST
Current Form [Last Five matches]
New Zealand- WWWNL
Pitch & Weather Conditions
International Cricket returns to McLean Park after two seasons as they lost their status post the abandonment of a game against Australia and another one against the Proteas. The wicket is traditionally a batsman's paradise which slows a bit as the game wears on. Expect the spinners to come into play in the second innings.
- Mohammad Shami [99 wickets] needs just one scalp to complete 100 dismissals in ODI wickets. If Shami achieves the feat at Napier, he'll become the fastest Indian and fifth overall to complete 100 ODI wickets.
- Shikhar Dhawan [4990 runs in 117 innings] needs 10 runs to become the joint fourth-fastest to accumulate 5,000 ODI runs alongside Brian Lara.
- Ross Taylor [7774 runs in 195 innings] is on the verge of becoming only the second Kiwi batsman to cross 8,000 runs.
- MS Dhoni requires 197 runs to become India's highest run-getter against New Zealand. The list is currently spearheaded by Sachin Tendulkar, who racked up 652 runs in 18 matches.
Team News & Playing 11
New Zealand- Mitchell Santner and Colin de Grandhomme will be in the contention for the all-rounder's spot while Tom Latham will also make his return after resting against Sri Lanka.
Probable 1I- Colin Munro, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson [c], Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Colin de Grandhomme/Mitchell Santner, Lockie Ferguson, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Trent Boult
India- It would be interesting to see where Dhoni bats in the middle-order after his match-winning knock at the MCG. But, with Virat Kohli showing his penchant of seeing Dhoni bat at No.5, Ambati Rayudu's comeback cannot be ruled out entirely. Also, will India play the spin-twins?
Probable 11- Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli [c], MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav/Ambati Rayudu, Vijay Shankar/Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammad Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar