The spectator limit for the third T20I between India and New Zealand at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday is 70 per cent. Though Rohit Sharma and Co. sealed the series 2-0 in Ranchi, there is still a lot of hunger among the fans to watch a live game at the historic ground after two years – the last being the pink-ball Test involving Bangladesh.
COVID-19 had snatched the ODI against South Africa in March 2020.
There are no long queues, but people who missed the digital rush to purchase a ticket for the game have been loitering around the B.C. Roy Club House premises expecting to find sellers. It explains the excitement to watch the action unfold under the lights on a winter evening.
India could not shine at the T20 World Cup 2021, but there is a chance to make amends in Australia in 2022. And with 19 games remaining before the next ICC showpiece, head coach Rahul Dravid would not mind testing the youngsters in different situations.
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It will be interesting to see if India pushes left-hander Venkatesh Iyer up the order as K.L. Rahul deserves a bit of rest after a stellar run throughout the year. Ishan Kishan could be the other option. The youngster played a few good knocks for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League but could not make the T20 World Cup opportunity count against the Black Caps.
There could be opportunities for batter Ruturaj Gaikwad, pacer Avesh Khan and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal.
Off-spinner R. Ashwin is a tactician with a bag of tricks. It is no surprise that he has the best economy among all the Indian bowlers in the first two games — 5.75 in Jaipur and 4.75 in Ranchi — along with two wickets. His presence and inputs will be important.
Newcomer Harshal Patel, who won the Player of the Match award in his debut in Ranchi for picking up the wickets of Daryll Mitchell and Glenn Phillips, is expected to continue.
New Zealand doesn’t have much to do in the absence of regular skipper Kane Williamson. Tim Southee did a fair job to pull things back with his exceptional bowling in the second game — 3/16 in four overs — but did not find enough support from the other bowlers.
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The Black Caps will be keen to avoid a whitewash. They need to polish their power-hitting skills at the death overs. After healthy starts by Martin Guptill and Mitchell, the energy has been fizzling out towards the end.
The toss will be a factor as Eden is known for its dew at the onset of winter. The side batting first will have to score in bulk to ensure victory as the conditions may not help the bowlers in the second innings.
Eden is Rohit’s happy hunting ground, and coincidentally, he was the captain in the last T20I at this venue in 2018 against the West Indies.
The Indian team landed in Kolkata late afternoon. There was no training but Dravid and batting coach Vikram Rathour dropped by to inspect the ground.