Kuldeep the trump card as New Zealand and India get ready for T20 decider

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Kuldeep could be India's trump card in the third T20.

A series triumph will be on the line for both teams when New Zealand and India meet in the third and final T20 at Hamilton on Sunday.

The Kiwis took a 1-0 lead in the series with an 80-run win in Wellington before India responded with a seven-wicket thumping in the Auckland T20.

With the two teams locked at 1-1 in the three-match series, we take a look at the key talking points heading into the deciding T20 clash.

TIME RUNNING OUT FOR MUNRO

With the 2019 World Cup in England less than four months away, time is running out for Colin Munro to stake his claim for the opener’s role in the Kiwi ODI setup.

The New Zealand opener had a miserable time in the ODI series against India and his poor form has continued in the T20 clashes where he has registered scores of 34 and 12 so far.

His patchy form has seen the southpaw dropped from New Zealand’s squad for the first two ODIs against Bangladesh and as such, there aren’t many opportunities remaining for Munro to establish his claim.

With Martin Guptill returning from injury for the Bangladesh series, Munro needs to fire quickly if he wants a ticket on the World Cup plane. The explosive batsman has three T20I tons to his name with the most recent of them coming at Hamilton against England last year.

Can Munro repeat his Hamilton heroics and save his spot in the team?

Munro has his back against the wall.

Munro has his back against the wall.

INDIA LOOK TO CAP OFF DREAM TOUR

A win on Sunday for India will complete a sensational summer Down Under for India.

India were excellent on their tour of Australia where they clinched a maiden Test series win. The tourists also took the ODI series honours while the T20 series was shared between the two sides.

In New Zealand, India were rampant in the ODI clashes where they prevailed by a margin of 4-1 to capture their first series on Kiwi soil in over a decade. A win at Hamilton will give India four of the five series from their tour of Antipodes.

When one takes into account the team’s tour of South Africa last year as well, it makes for even better reading for India’s displays in the Southern Hemisphere. There, India lost the Test series 1-2 but came out on top in the ODI and T20 clashes.

India have been on a role in the Southern Hemisphere.

India have been on a role in the Southern Hemisphere.

 KULDEEP QUESTION ON INDIA’S MIND

With the stakes high for both teams, India stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma has a tough call to make on Kuldeep Yadav.

The wrist-spinner has not featured in the T20 series with India opting to go with Yuzvendra Chahal and Krunal Pandya in the two clashes.

Kuldeep remains one of India’s biggest assets with the ball in the limited-overs formats, especially in T20s where he averages just under 13 with a strike-rate of less than 12.

He was excellent against Kane Williamson’s men in the ODI series where he picked up a four-wicket haul twice and he could prove to be India’s trump card for the deciding T20.

Should Kuldeep come into the playing XI, Rohit will have to decide whether to drop a bowler or a batsman. Krunal seems likely to retain his spot after his three-wicket haul in Auckland and it is possible that Kuldeep comes in for Chahal who has played all five ODIs and the two T20s.

Kuldeep could come in for Chahal on Sunday.

Kuldeep could come in for Chahal on Sunday.

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Yuvraj Singh believes Dhoni's 'cricket brain' is crucial to India's 2019 World Cup hopes

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Yuvraj Singh (l) and MS Dhoni (r).

MS Dhoni’s slow scoring-rate at times has divided opinions but his former India team-mate Yuvraj Singh is in no doubt that the veteran wicketkeeper will be key for the team in the 2019 ICC World Cup.

Yuvraj, who was awarded the player of the tournament when India lifted the 2011 World Cup, believes his former skipper’s cricketing brain is vital to the side’s ODI setup.

“I think Mahi (Dhoni) has a great cricket brain,” Yuvraj was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India (PTI).

“As a wicket-keeper, you are in the best position to monitor the game and he has done that fantastically over the years. He has been a great captain. (He’s) with the young players and guiding Virat Kohli all the time.

“I feel his presence is very important in decision-making. He had a fantastic tournament in Australia, and it is good to see him hit the ball how he used to do. I wish him all the best.”

Dhoni hit the winning six for India in the 2011 World Cup on home soil.

Dhoni hit the winning six for India in the 2011 World Cup on home soil.

Dhoni had struggled with the bat in 2018 where he failed to muster a single half-century in the 50-over format. With the likes of Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant knocking on the door, questions were being raised over Dhoni’s place in the ODI side.

However, the veteran bounced back in style in 2019 with a man-of-the-series performance in the India’s ODI series win in Australia where he registered three half-centuries in as many matches.

The 37-year-old now seems a certainty to take the gloves for India in the 2019 World Cup in England which gets underway at the end of May this year.

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Lahore Qalandars skipper Mohammad Hafeez eyeing change in PSL fortunes

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Mohammad Hafeez will lead Lahore in PSL 4.

Newly appointed Lahore Qalandars skipper Mohammad Hafeez is hoping to bring about a change in the team’s fortunes when the fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) gets underway this month.

The Qalandars have been the biggest under-performers in PSL history and have finished bottom of the league in each of the three editions held so far.

This season, the Lahore franchise has managed to land some big names in the player auction with South African ace AB de Villiers being the most prominent among them. Another exciting name in the Qalandars mix is teenage Nepal leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane.

Praising the team combination, Hafeez hoped that the side will give the Lahore fans something to cheer about this time.

“Our team combination is very good. The think tank of Lahore Qalandars have done a good job in picking players,” the Pakistan veteran told Geo News.

Qalandars have AB de Villiers in their ranks.

Qalandars have AB de Villiers in their ranks.

“I’m sure all the players will give their best and deliver according to expectations and provide Qalandars fans something to cheer about, something they have been missing.

“As a player, I will try to give my maximum and make every effort to make the team victorious.”

The fourth edition of the PSL sees as many as eight matches scheduled to be held on Pakistan soil and Hafeez is relishing the prospect of playing in front of home fans.

“Playing PSL in Pakistan is something we all have been waiting for. Really looking forward to our two games in Lahore and then the next stage in Karachi,” Hafeez stated.

The PSL will get underway in the UAE on February 14 with Lahore Qalandars taking on defending champions Islamabad United in the tournament opener at Dubai.

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