MS Dhoni smiles at you from a billboard as you step out of the Birsa Munda Airport in the quaint industrial town of Ranchi. The Indian One-Day International captain has reasons to smile about, besides the obvious performance benefits his choice of engine oil seemingly gives him. After dilly-dallying for a year, he appears to have seen merits of an elevation to No. 4 in the batting order. Instant validation came in Mohali via a match-winning 91-ball 80, which, along with another Virat Kohli hundred, gave the hosts a 2-1 lead in the five-match series. Now with his own batting concerns secured, at least for the immediate future, Dhoni will look to wrap the series up in well-known climes of his domicile.














Not much is likely to change for the hosts by the way of strategy or conditions. India’s spinners have enjoyed a stranglehold of the New Zealand middle order, pulling things back even on a rare occasion like in Mohali when New Zealand got off to a good start. While Kedar Jadhav continues to enjoy a dream a series with the ball, senior leg spinner Amit Mishra has quietly thrown his hat in the ring for inclusion even in a full-strength side with a series of eye-catching bowling displays. An early series victory, should it come on Wednesday (October 26), will allow India to tweak combinations and audition different individuals in unfamiliar situations for the final game in Visakhapatnam as a part of their ongoing experimentation plans.

New Zealand, on the other hand, need a considerable reversal of fortunes and application for the series to not be decided after the fourth ODI. Winning the toss would be a start. Ross Taylor can’t seem to catch a break on the series. After a string of low scores, he handed a reprieve to Kohli in Mohali who duly went on to score an unbeaten 154. To add to Taylor’s grumblings, former captain Brendon McCullum has had a few words – no, a complete chapter? – dedicated to him in his book ‘Declared’. Perhaps, now is as good a time as any for a Taylor century to shush a growing list of detractors. There was promise in that restrained 44 in the last game before he walked right past a Mishra leg spinner. Tom Latham too, would dearly love to kick on and convert his next start into a century for even purple patches don’t last forever.

Interestingly, the last time India played an ODI at this venue in 2014, they did so without their beloved hometown boy but were able to effect a five-nil whitewash of Sri Lanka. They haven’t won a series against a top-10 ODI nation since.

When: India vs New Zealand, 4th ODI, October 26, 13.30 IST or 08:00 GMT

Where: JSCA International Stadium Complex, Ranchi

What to expect: Sunny but pleasant day in the offing. A high of 27 degree Celsius that should settle in to the early twenties in the evening. “Certainly looks a lot different to the Mohali wicket. It’s very bare and not much grass,” Latham said about the pitch in Ranchi. The track has had some assistance for spin in the recent past.

Team News:


Perhaps not so surprisingly, the hosts have retained the same 14-member squad for the final two games of the series which means a still-recovering Suresh Raina will have to wait longer for his ODI return. Time is running out for Ajinkya Rahane to make a mark as an opener and he wouldn’t want to look back on this series as a lost opportunity, once Shikhar Dhawan or KL Rahul return to the top and when he’s pushed back to a middle-order tussle for spots. With the series at stake, India are unlikely to tinker with their combination.

New Zealand:

Notwithstanding the abject batting forms of Taylor and Martin Guptill, New Zealand have trouble brewing with the middle order consistently caving at the first sight of the opposition. Nothing summed that up more than Corey Anderson slapping a Jadhav full toss straight to mid-off in Mohali, moments after a good stand between Latham and Taylor had ended.

Even before the series, Luke Ronchi had had a barren run of form – he now has just one score of 50 or more in his last 42 innings – and Mike Hesson will be tempted to throw in the honest trier – BJ Watling – who spent a considerable time batting in the nets on the eve of the game. The think-tank would have at least seen a few chinks of light in James Neesham and Matt Henry’s batting resistance in Mohali. But having said that, they may want to draft Anton Devcich back into the side if the pitch at the venue lives up to its recent spin history. Anderson, playing as a pure batsman, could also be sacrificed for the spinning all-rounder


India (From): Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni(w/c), Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Axar Patel, Hardik Pandya, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Jayant Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Mandeep Singh

New Zealand (From): Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson(c), Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Luke Ronchi(w), James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Ish Sodhi, Anton Devcich, BJ Watling

Preview by Kaushik Rangarajan (cricbuzz)