DateLine: 8th September 2012
India vs New Zealand
Grab yourself a box of popcorn and get set for a thrilling roller-coaster ride as the slam-bang T20 season is ready to blast-off between India and New Zealand.
After winning his battle against a rare germ cell cancer, India will welcome back Yuvraj Singh who would be the centre of attraction for all eyes when he starts his journey back into International cricket. India face the Black Caps in the first of the two-match Twenty20 International Series on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Yuvi, who has been out of the India's side for what appears to be an eternity will be licking his lips to rediscover his rhythm and spice up India's bowling. His career looked in jeopardy but now the extravagant all-rounder has fought back and is back to thrill his fans.
The 30-year-old left-hander has been training hard at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore and would be looking to make a statement when he returns to the cricket field in tomorrow`s match.
There is another big star Harbhajan Singh who has made a comeback to the Indian team. However, with R Ashwin playing so well, it is doubtful whether the man from Punjab will get a chance tomorrow.
With the World T20 championship just round the corner, the game is the first step of preparation as both sides will be testing their combinations for the the big trophy. This two match T20 series is of immense significance. India could not have ended a the jam-packed season in more emphatic fashion than a 2-0 triumph in a 2-Test series.
As it's a jam-packed Twenty20 calendar ahead - World T20 followed by the Champions League in South Africa - India would be keen for a winning start against the Kiwis.
Form-wise, Virat Kohli has been the man of all formats for India in the recent past, with many match-winning knocks under his belt. The youngster will once again form the core of Indian batting, while Suresh Raina, known for his exploits in the shorter formats, will look to give the finishing touches. In the middle-order, Rohit Sharma will have to prove his worth soon enough or the struggling batsman might end up losing his spot to the talented Manoj Tiwary, who has been waiting in the wings. The opening duo of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are also yet to fire on all cylinders.
On the other hand, the Kiwis would be hoping that their pace spearheads Doug Bracewell and Tim Southee supported by 20-year-old Adam Milne who will look to impress with his searing pace for the first time in sub-continental conditions. The Kiwis exhibited signs of aggression and an urge to win through Ross Taylor's ton and the collective bowling effort in the final Test to force India to earn their stripes. Taylor will be pushing his boys to keep up the 'fighting spirit' to upset India and steal a rare Series triumph though it seems perhaps, only a distant possibility.
However, the visitors would be boosted by the arrival of left-arm spinner and former captain Daniel Vettori and few other new faces after Test players left India. Brendon McCullum is expected to open the batting with Martin Guptill. On his day Guptill (averaging 34.04 in T20) could very well be a pure delight to watch. The rock-solid Kane Williamson and flamboyant Ross Taylor form the backbone of the Kiwi middle order.
James Franklin has reinvented his batting to become one of the 'big guns' in T20s. His left arm pace bowling is also pretty useful. Jacob Oram, another T20 specialist, set the recently concluded SLPL on fire with his all round skills. To be fair, the 34 year-old was the engine room of Uva Next's resounding success in the SLPL.
The sun has been shining bright after last few days of bad weather and the Visakhapatnam T20 is set to enthrall the cricket-starved crowd in this coastal port city of Andhra Pradesh.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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