Wellington:World champions India would seek to restore their pride after being trounced in the first match as they go into the second and final Twenty20 game against New Zealand on Friday, fully aware that only an inspired show will help them to level the series.
The seven-wicket defeat at Christchurch in the first match must have taken the reputation of Mahendra Singh Dhoni's young bravehearts as kings of Twenty20 a serious beating which they can only rectify by winning tomorrow.
A victory will also boost their morale ahead of the five-match ODI series starting on March 3 and put a balm after their second successive loss against New Zealand in the shortest format of the game.
However, the visitors will have to do a lot of catching up as the Kiwis have the distinct advantage of having bowling all-rounders in their ranks, in contrast to India who rely on their batsmen to bowl in the middle overs.
The lack of a genuine all-rounder is beginning to prove quite costly. Only Ravindra Jadeja seems to fall in this category, but the youngster from Rajkot may not find the team management's favour yet.
The defeat at Christchurch could have prompted the Indian think-tank to consider an alternative for Irfan Pathan, who had courageously won India a cliffhanger in his brother's company a fortnight ago in Sri Lanka. Irfan had emerged on the international arena as a bowling all-rounder, but of late he has been more productive with the bat than the ball.
In conditions prevalent in New Zealand, a bowler of Praveen Kumar's ability would be more effective than Irfan, who conceded as many as 38 runs from three overs in the first Twenty20.
But Dhoni's penchant for a deep batting line-up may yet see Irfan get the nod against the Uttar Pradesh seamer, who has this uncanny ability to frazzle top order batsmen.
Though Dhoni blamed the batsmen for the debacle, the Indian captain would do well to analyse that India were outplayed by the more athletic Kiwis, who bowled fast and straight, fielded with the alacrity of a leopard and batted with a calmness and purpose that belied their ability to plunder at will.
Only if Virender Sehwag, Yuvarj Singh and Yusuf Pathan produce scores in the excess of 50, can India hope to deprive the Kiwis of a much-sought after series victory tomorrow.
Sehwag and Yusuf cleared the dwarfed boundaries at the AMI stadium at Christchurch consistently while making 26 and 20 respectively, but failed to keep the momentum going.
If only they could apply themselves like Suresh Raina, their unbridled belligerence would be of value to India. Having established the lead in the series, the Black Caps would be keen to complete a 2-0 rout, which they are immensely capable of, before the five-match one-day series kick starts at Napier.
New Zealand coach Andy Moles believes his boys could achieve their goal.
"The boys know they are up against a very, very talented Indian side. We have got our noses in front, and we want to stay there. It is a two-match series and we want to win it. The boys are looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead of them," he said.
Considering the all-round potential of the Black Caps, it would take a huge effort from the Indians to redeem their dented pride. If they don't stand up to the challenge, they would be offering New Zealand the psychological advantage in the rest of the tour.
The Teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Praveen Kumar.
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (Captain), Neil Broom, Ian Butler, Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Iain O'Brien, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliot.
Match starts at 11.30am IST.