Blackcaps v India: One-day series carries World Cup implications for world No.1 New Zealand

Stand-in Blackcaps captain Tom Latham hopes his side's looming one-day series against India may set the tone for the upcoming World Cup.

For the first time in its history, the Cricket World Cup will be hosted solely in India. The two-time victors have made their country an ODI fortress in recent years, winning 22 out of 25 series played at home since 2010. 

New Zealand will get their last chance to tear down that fortress during an upcoming three-match series, before returning to the subcontinent for cricket's biggest tournament in October. 

With the series opener scheduled for Wednesday night (NZ time), Latham admits the upcoming matches provide a fantastic chance for his side to prepare for the World Cup. 

"Obviously, it's in the back of our minds," he said. "You know October, November aren't too far away and will roll around pretty quickly, so I guess this is the last opportunity we’ll get before proper preparation gets underway."

Despite their impressive record, New Zealand know India can be beaten in subcontinental conditions. When the Kiwis visited India in 2016 and 2017, both series went down to deciders, while Bangladesh managed to top their bitter rivals at home just over a month ago, winning an ODI series against India 2-1. 

That said, Latham is still well aware of the many difficulties his side will come up against while playing against India at home, both during this series and at the World Cup. 

"Different places present different challenges," he said. "It’s another great opportunity for us to come over to this part of the world, where it is challenging to play, and hopefully put some good performances on the board, while adapting to what’s thrown at us. 

"Traditionally, here, the wickets are decent surfaces, where the ball tends to skid a lot under light.” 

While getting used to the unique conditions, the Blackcaps are keen to take away as many insights and lessons as they can in their lead-up to the World Cup. Without Kane Willamson and Tim Southee, who are both being rested, youngsters such as Finn Allen, Blair Tickner and Henry Shipley will have a vital chance to show coach Gary Stead why they deserve to stay in the squad.

Blackcaps celebrate their ODI series win over Pakistan
Blackcaps celebrate their ODI series win over Pakistan. Photo credit: Getty Images

On the other side of the ball, the Kiwis will need to find a way to defuse an in-form Virat Kohli and a vicious bowling attack that recently put Sri Lanka to the sword during a record-setting ODI victory. Latham is not taking this lethal combination with bat and ball lightly. 

"The Indian team presents a huge range of challenges throughout their batting order, but also in their bowling attack. For us, it's about trying to plan as best we can and individual guys preparing as best they can for what we are going to face." 

The early upper hand during a World Cup year also isn't the only reward on the line in this series. If India manage to defeat the Blackcaps by a margin of 3-0, they will leapfrog the Kiwis to the top of the world ODI rankings. 

Despite that possibility, Latham believes the key is just to focus on themselves.  

"Sometimes, when you focus on the other side, you can kind of undo yourself a little bit, so for us, it’s about focusing on what we can do."

Cricket fans around the globe will find out just what Latham and his side can do during a series that will likely have important World Cup implications.