A confident India will look to continue their domination when they clash against New Zealand in the third one-dayer in Christchurch on Sunday, fully aware that the pressure will be more on the hosts who face a do-or-die battle.
Leading 1-0, a win on Sunday will ensure that India will not lose the series and they can push for the series-victory in the last two matches without a more relaxed approach.
But the two rain-marred matches at Napier and Wellington has not only upset the rhythm of the players to some extent, but has also put New Zealand in a tricky situation.
If the Black Caps lose Sunday’s crucial day-nighter at the AMI Park, the door to a possible series victory would be shut on their face.
New Zealand have more at stake than India, who have gathered steam since their 0-2 rout in the Twenty20s. Sehwag is in red-hot form and has already logged two half centuries (77 and 54) in the series and India will loom to him for yet another explosive start.
The Delhi master blaster has psyched Kiwi bowlers so much that except for Ian Butler and Danile Vettori, others are not sure where to put the ball.
If it is pitched short, Sehwag disdainfully pulls, hooks and cuts. If the ball is pitched up, he effortlessly heaves it over the in-field or bisects the fielders with crunchy drives.
Their game plans have all been put in awry.
The Kiwi’s biggest challenge, and admittedly their foremost goal, is to get rid of Sehwag early from the square, which they have not been successful in the last two ODIs.
However, the Blackcaps mistakenly believe that if they could get Sehwag early, they could rein in the rest of the Indian batters.
But Vettori does not seem to realise that it is not Sehwag who produces most of India’s win. But he does set it up. Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan and Dhoni who have contributed when it matters most.
The Kiwis would be at peril if they underestimate Sachin Tendulkar, who has prudently switched to the role of a moderator.
The Mumbaikar may be 36 years old, but he still has the fire to take the attack to the rivals, as he did in the abandoned ODI at the Westpac stadium.
It was the fear of their batting being decimated by the destructive combo of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma that New Zealand, who had blatantly prepared green tops on India’s last tour here, opted for flat, hard and brown tracks.
Though Ishant has not played a match since hurting his right shoulder, Zaheer and Praveen Kumar have combined to rock the inexperienced Kiwi batting line-up.
Instead of spending sleepless nights over Sehwag, the Black Caps would do well to play to pep up their confidence, which has been at a low since losing the rain-truncated first one-dayer at Napier by 53 runs.
Unlike India, theirs is an inexperienced side, with a good crop of batsmen and bowlers. They need to train their eye on the future, rather than worry about immediate goals.
Perhaps, this spirit would help to exorcise their fear for Sehwag, their nemesis.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Rohit Sharma, Pargyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma.
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (capt), Ian Butler, Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Peter McGlashan, Iain O’Brien, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor, Grant Ellio, Kyle Mills, Neil Broom, Jeetan Patel.
Umpires: Rudi Koertzen, Gary Baxter. Third umpire: Evan Watkin. Fourth umpire: D Quested. Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle.