India, New Zealand play for individual gains in dead rubber

Preview

While this series may have been shoe-horned into an already packed calendar, it means a great deal to new players coming through

Big picture

India vs New Zealand stands shoe-horned into a schedule that seems to bend the time-space continuum. Honestly, if the people who make these calendars are left to fiddle with the concept of time, there would be three new months to go with the other 12. So, here we are, with a series that will fade away, quite content in knowing it has no place in the grand scheme of things, but still willing to offer a few thrills and spills.

New Zealand are tired. They are also beaten. But, in a sense, does it really matter? Kane Williamson clocked out at the end of a grueling T20 World Cup campaign. Trent Boult remains but he may as well be sleepwalking, especially considering how Sunday will be his last engagement on this tour before finally leaving for home. Lockie Ferguson is only just coming back from a serious injury. And Devon Conway is still stuck on the physio’s table. Meanwhile, on the other side, Virat Kohli is taking a break, Jasprit Bumrah too and Hardik Pandya, well, no one seems to know what’s really going on with him. All of which adds to the feeling that these games in India have been more an obligation than an all-out battle.
That said, to the actual individuals, like Harshal Patel, who was finally given an international stage to showcase his talents, this contest that is the cricketing equivalent of jury duty may mean just a tiny bit more.

Form guide

(Last five completed matches, most recent first)
India: WWWWW
New Zealand: LLLWW

In the spotlight

By choosing to be a left-arm spinner, Mitchell Santner agreed to life as a wallflower, one that only blooms in the right conditions. Well, here they are. A good show on a flat track in Kolkata could easily count for double when it comes time to pick the XIs for a Test match on the turners of Kanpur and Mumbai.

One of R Ashwin‘s favourite pastimes is breaking perceptions. He never bought into the hype around wristspin a few years ago and he won’t see the reason in T20 match-ups. To him, an offspinner can bowl to a right-hander and still do a good job because at the end of the day it’s all about skill and he has plenty of it.

Team news

With the series won, and this being the time to test out new players, India may be tempted to bring the likes of Avesh Khan and Ruturaj Gaikwad off the bench.

India 1 KL Rahul, 2 Rohit Sharma (capt), 3 Ruturaj Gaikwad/Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Venkatesh Iyer, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Deepak Chahar, 10 Avesh Khan/Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Harshal Patel

New Zealand may not be contemplating too many personnel changes but rather a tactical one about the way they bat in the middle overs.

New Zealand: 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Daryl Mitchell, 3 Mark Chapman, 4 Glenn Phillips, 5 Tim Seifert (wk), 6 James Neesham, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Adam Milne, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Ish Sodhi, 11 Trent Boult

Pitch and conditions

The Eden Gardens of recent vintage tends to offer a bit of pace and bounce and may be more like home to the visitors than any of the other grounds on this tour. The forecast is for a clear night with temperatures hitting a high of 29 degree C.

Stats and trivia

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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