India eye top ODI ranking in new season
After a relatively long break, India begin a gruelling cricket season in Colombo on Friday with a tri-series clash against New Zealand, fully aware that a clean sweep in the short series would make them the number one ODI team in the world.
The tag of the number of team will be the main goal for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men who need to win both their league matches and the final to achieve the feat.
The BCCI Corporate trophy provided the Indian players a chance to shrug off the rust following a six-week break even though the fitness of the players were assessed during the off-season.
Image: Mahindra Singh Dhoni
A road map has been drawn
The Indians are raring to get back onto the field and coach Gary Kirsten has already drawn up a road map for the team.
"We have set our targets as to what we have to achieve in the next eight months. Certainly, one of them is to become the best team in the world. We are heading that way and we are very excited on the way that we have gone about our business to get to that position," Kirsten said.
"We know that if we continue with as hard as we do in terms of our training and how we set our sights for games, we have the best chances of reaching there.
"We continue with that quest to be the best in the world," he said.
Image: Rahul Dravid
...of three wins and two rating points
If India win the two league matches and then the final, they will earn two rating points which is enough to topple South Africa who are currently on top of the table.
While the Indians appear to be quite confident, it will be a do-or-die battle for the Kiwis who were thrashed by the hosts in the opening match.
A defeat against India will dash their hopes of a berth in the final.
But the Black Caps, who have been strengthened by the return of some of their ICL players like Shane Bond and Daryl Tuffey, are a dangerous one-day team and are quite capable of turning the table on any fancied team on their day.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
India maybe tempted to play three pacers
India would be without aggressive opener Virender Sehwag who has been ruled out because of a shoulder surgery but return of veteran Rahul Dravid lends solidity to the middle-order.
In the absence of Sehwag, left-handed Gautam Gambhir is expected to open with the seasoned Sachin Tendulkar.
The Indians have young all rounder Abhishek Nayar in their ranks and it remains to be seen whether the team management decides to give him a chance to prove his worth.
The way Sri Lankan pace battery of Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga and Thilan Thushara peformed in the first match Indians would be tempted to play three pacers.
Image: RP Singh
Harbhajan will have company
Both Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra are expected to play due to the spin-friendly nature of Sri Lanka wickets but there is stiff competition in the pace department.
Left-armer Ashish Nehra looks sure as he had made a good comeback to the team after four years in the last series against the West Indies in July and it would be a surprise if he is omitted from the final line-up.
Probably Praveen Kumar will sit out as as his success hinges much on swing which he is unlikely to get from the tracks here and Ishant Sharma and RP Singh would start favourite.
Image: Harbhajan Singh
Kiwis can make life hard for the Indians
The lanky Ishant Sharma has been struggling for quite some but the team management is likely to persist with him.
The Kiwis will have to sort their inconsistent batting if they have to keep alive their chances.
They rely much on the exploits of Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor and they will have to fire to save their team from blushes as they have already the Test series to Sri Lanka.
Jacob Oram and Kyle Mills are the other two players India will have to look out for.
Return of Shane Bond to the national fold has bolstered Kiwi pace department and he along with Tuffey and Daniel Vettori can make life hard for the Indians.
Image: Dinesh Karthik