For the next two games we have two new venues in Mohali and Delhi and it is important to know about the pitch conditions before we jump into the gruelling saga of whom to pick and whom not to.
The Mohali pitch has traditionally been a good batting surface. It normally has some grass on the surface to bind the pitch together, which helps in the ball coming on to the bat and doesn’t allow the pitch to disintegrate because of the heat. So, you need to go with batsmen who love playing through the line for this game (along with a few death bowlers maybe). But the important thing about all Indian pitches is that they are inherently spin friendly; some more, some less. This one is definitely on the less spin friendly side but who knows!
The Kotla track has always been some kind of an enigma. It sometimes plays into the hands of the batsmen and on other occasions it becomes hard to put bat to ball. But off late runs haven’t been very easy to come by. Expect totals of around 150 on this track. And as the game progresses, there is a bit more spin on offer. Keep that mind while making choices!
Now, let’s get to the initial team set up!
New Zealand vs Pakistan
This game will be played at Mohali and it should be a high scoring encounter. But you can never be sure when Pakistan is involved. On some days they could go from gear 1 to 5 in no time. On others, they would just completely forget about buying the fuel needed to even get their car started.
The two no brainers for this game are Mohammad Amir and Corey Anderson. Amir has been bowling beautifully since his return and has tested the batsmen in more ways than one. Corey bats at 4 and bowls his full quota of 4. On a track that would make stroke making easy, he could score big.
All the pitches so far have assisted spin, even the flat road (track) in Bangalore and thus I assume that spin will have a big role to play in Mohali as well. Thus, I bring in Michael Santner who could prove to be a big threat to the Pakistani top order as 6 of the top 7 are right-handers! And the fact that Santner comes in for just 70k further strengthens his cause for selection.
Now, amongst the New Zealand top 4, up against 3 high quality left handed seam bowlers, I would want to go with the most technically sound one. And that is Kane Williamson. I leave out Guptill because of the Mohammad Amir threat early in his innings. And I believe Williamson would be better at handling Amir. Munro looked completely out of sorts in both the games, playing ugly heaves and obnoxious swats across the line. I wouldn’t want to bank on him against a good bowling unit.
Mohammad Hafeez is a doubtful starter for this game and that makes me look at Umar Akmal(probably for the first time in my life). Now, you need to understand that Pakistan play two games in the space of 4 matches and thus it would help to get in at least two or three of them in your side (even if you feel they would end up losing because they would have two games before you transfer them out).
Pakistan have been reluctant to send him up the order but against India he did come in at number 4 and that could be signs of things to come. Get him in if Pakistan bat first. He also solves the wicketkeeper problem.
I am tempted to go for Imad Wasim here as well. The Pakistan team management made a huge blunder by not picking him on a spin haven in Kolkata and would be digging their own grave by not picking this bright young kid against New Zealand. But again you can never really know with Pakistan. Wait for the toss if you want to draft him in. But if you want to go for a third Pakistan player because of their two quick games, I would suggest Ahmed Shehzad. Pakistan play both these games at Mohali and the ball coming onto the bat could play into Shehzad’s hand. Also, the fact that he comes in for just 70k provides great balance to my team.
Ross Taylor bats too low and hasn’t really done anything of note for quite a long time. Sharjeel is a waste of time, money and whole host of other things. Afridi is too erratic to be worth 120k. Mohammad Irfan is not that effective in Indian conditions and Wahab Riaz just hasn’t found his rhythm yet.
Captain for this game: Corey Anderson
The other players that make up my team are Joe Root, Adil Rashid, Virat Kohli, Mohammad Nabi and Moeen Ali/Rashid Khan(depending on which team bowls second, i.e, if England bowl second, I get in Moeen Ali because the pitch will assist the spinners a bit more in the second innings).
England are not known for their spin playing abilities and the clash against Afghnaistan could prove to be a really stern test for them. The Afghans haven’t backed off from any challenge and I am sure would be itching to release their spin bowlers on the Englishmen.
England aren’t playing at the Wankhede anymore and that is why you need to adopt a different approach with them from now on. I go with Joe Root because he is the most technically sound batsmen in the England top 4. And because I am not quite sure as to how the Kotla will behave this time round, I am going with bowlers just to be safe.
Mohammad Nabi has been good with both bat and ball and is probably Afghanistan’s best cricketer and that is why I get him in.
And do I even need to justify Virat Kohli’s selection? If yes, then may god help you!