R. Ashwin was promoted to the No. 7 spot and Ravindra Jadeja came in at No. 8, a slot that his spin partner previously occupied.
The move made sense. Ashwin began his career as an opener and has the skills of a frontline batsman. He judges the length early, has time to play and place the ball into the gaps.
And his smart cricketing mind harnesses the angles on the field. When he is at the crease, one does get the impression that Ashwin is constantly attempting to outsmart the bowler.
Walking in with the Indian score at 146 for five in the 28th over also allowed Ashwin more space to play himself in and control the innings.
Jadeja is a natural striker of the ball. He generates power and clears the field. The left-hander also has the instincts of a finisher.
In the past, India has been overly dependent on Mahendra Singh Dhoni for closing out games. Following his blitz in the final moments of the tied humdinger on Saturday, Jadeja could shoulder some of that responsibility.
Such an innings under pressure can lift confidence levels several notches. Confidence and belief are intertwined.
Finally, India displayed some batting depth in this series — such a crucial element of any ODI outfit. For this, the all-rounders need to fire.
The fact that Ashwin and Jadeja are a right-left combination also made things harder for the bowlers as they constantly had to shift their line. Their methods forced the Kiwi bowlers to alter the length as well. Ashwin uses the pace of the ball while Jadeja is more of a heavy hitter.
Importantly, Ashwin and Jadeja pulled their weights as bowlers in the third ODI.
The surface did not suit their type of bowling but the duo pegged the run-rate back with some accurate stuff.
Although he scalped the left-handed Corey Anderson with a quicker one from round the wicket, it was good to see Ashwin bowling a tidy off-stump line from over the wicket to the right-handers.
Ashwin fell to a stirring catch at deep mid-wicket by Martin Guptill. How did Guptill pull off that delicate balancing act precariously close to the ropes when he has only two toes in a foot?
This is a story within a story. Guptill call himself ‘Two Toes.’ With three toes lost in an accident when young, he still is a livewire on the field, and his distribution of weight as a batsman is just right.
Defying the odds
How does he manage this? Only Guptill will know. Yet, surely, his has been a journey of pain, sacrifice and fulfilment.
The tale of this 27-year-old from Auckland showcases that precious ability to overcome obstacles, both physical and mental.
This New Zealand team is not short of protagonists who have defied the odds.
Hamish Bennett’s career was as good as over when a serious back injury kept him out of cricket for three years.
The gangling paceman with a rather open-chested and round-armish action went under the knife. He now has screws and titanium wires supporting his back.
Bennett fought his way back in domestic cricket. When fast bowler Adam Milne was ruled out after the first ODI against India, Bennett was drafted in.
Pick of the bowlers
The 26-year-old Bennett bowled at a lively pace in Auckland, extracted bounce, prised out Virat Kohli with slight away deviation, and was the pick of the Kiwi bowlers. In his comeback, lies a triumph.
Then there is the rocky path of the talented Jesse Ryder; alcoholism following a troubled childhood, suspension for consumption of a banned substance and hospitalisation in serious condition after a violent assault outside a Christchurch pub.
After all this, Ryder is still around. And trying to be a better person and a cricketer.