New Zealand’s stand-in skipper Tom Latham conceded that the absence of the powerhouse trio of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Kane Williamson, all of whom will take no part in the three-match ODI series against India, leaves a ‘massive hole’ in the BlackCaps’ side but claimed that the trio’s absence provides an opportunity for those in the fringes to step-up.
While Williamson and Southee, both of whom featured in the ODIs against Pakistan, have been rested to manage their workload, Boult, no longer a centrally contracted New Zealand player, is currently featuring in the ILT20 in UAE. Southee and Williamson, in fact, finished the Pakistan ODIs, which New Zealand won 2-1, as the highest wicket-taker and run-getter respectively.
The Kiwis will hence be fielding a significantly weakened XI in the three-match ODI series, with the likes of Mark Chapman, Jacob Duffy and Blair Tickner expected to feature in place of the experienced trio.
But Latham, who is no stranger to leading weakened sides in the 50-over format, opted to see things from a ‘glass half-full’ perspective ahead of the first ODI on Wednesday.
"They (Boult, Southee, Williamson) are not in the side and that leaves a massive hole for us,” Latham said in the pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
“On the other hand, it presents an opportunity for other guys who have been around the squad. Everyone has played international cricket in the squad which is a bonus.
"It is their turn to step up. Lucky we have Lockie Ferguson who has played a lot of cricket in India.”
Not just the aforementioned three players, Latham also confirmed that the BlackCaps will be missing the services of Ish Sodhi in the first ODI. Sodhi, Latham revealed, picked up a knock and is touch-and-go for the second and the third ODIs.
"Unfortunately a niggle for Ish. He won't be available tomorrow but fingers crossed he will be available for the next couple of games," Latham said.
The number one ranked ODI side in the world, the Kiwis will be entering the India series on the back of an impressive 2-1 victory away in Pakistan. It was their sixth bilateral ODI series win in their last seven, with their only defeat coming Down Under a few months ago, when they were rinsed 3-0 by a full-strength Aussie side.
Latham said his side will definitely take confidence from the showing in Pakistan and claimed that adapting to conditions will be key.
"The cricket that we played in Pakistan was really good. Some of them had not toured Pakistan ever and to come up with a series win was really nice. Over here, we will try and adapt to the conditions as much as we can.
"Surfaces in India will potentially be a bit better than what we had in Pakistan. Every time we play India it is a competitive series," he said.
Given the World Cup will be played in India in just over 9 months’ time, Latham asserted that the three ODIs will be invaluable practice for his side.
"This is our last opportunity to play in these conditions before the World Cup which is not too far away. We will just try to take as many learnings as we can from these conditions. Luckily enough most of the guys have played in Indian conditions."
The Kiwis were able to weather the Babar Azam storm in Pakistan, but in a day’s time, they will be up against a rampant Virat Kohli, who has scored three tons in his last four ODI innings. In the third ODI against Sri Lanka in Thiruvananthapuram, the 34-year-old posted his highest ever ODI score at home.
Latham vowed that his side will make it ‘as tough as possible’ for Kohli to rack up runs.
"Virat has been playing some great cricket. Looks like he is hitting the ball well. We need to plan as best as we can like we do our scouting on all those guys. We will try to make it as tough as possible for him (to score runs).”
The first of the three ODIs will be played at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on Wednesday, January 18th.