New Zealand face a test of their ODI strength against 2023 World Cup hosts India – and they must do so without a mainstay in Martin Guptill.
Veteran opener Guptill, who has played 198 ODIs, has followed in the footsteps of fellow experienced stars Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme in seeking a release from his New Zealand Cricket contract.
That has been granted, and while Guptill insists he remains available for international duty as he seeks playing opportunities elsewhere, he will play no part in the series that starts on Friday.
The Black Caps return to their Eden Park stronghold for game one of a three-match series. They have won six of their last seven men's ODIs at the Auckland ground, including a 22-run victory against India in their last match at the venue, in February 2020.
New Zealand swept that series 3-0, but the last time they won back-to-back ODI series against India was when they prevailed in 1976 and 1981.
These are two of the titans of the ODI game, likely to be major contenders come the World Cup next October and November.
India have won seven of their last eight multi-game bilateral ODI series, including five in a row since losing 3-0 to South Africa at the start of this year, while New Zealand's recent run of four series successes was ended with a 3-0 loss to Australia in September.
New Zealand have not lost back-to-back ODI series since October 2017, when they were beaten 2-1 by India. Guptill featured then but sits this one out, and it remains to be seen whether he will be back, with 23-year-old Finn Allen preferred for now.
Home captain Kane Williamson said of Guptill on Thursday: "He's made a decision to explore a few other options, but as a player and as an experienced member of the group, he's added so much value over the years and been one of our best white-ball players ever.
"[He] absolutely will be missed, but he is not retired, so there's a lot to keep working through over the next period to get a real feel for how the picture looks."
India are under-strength, with captain Rohit Sharma leading the absentees, who also include Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah. Shikhar Dhawan captains the tourists.
New Zealand seek to avenge soggy setback in T20s
India won the three-match T20 series between these sides by a 1-0 margin after the first game was abandoned without a ball being bowled, and the third was called a tie on Duckworth-Lewis-Stern rules after rain arrived when it was evenly poised.
It has to be hoped the wet weather stays away this time, with Williamson one game away from equalling Daniel Vettori (82) for the second-most appearances as captain for New Zealand in men's ODIs.
Only Stephen Fleming, away and clear with 218 games as captain, has led the Black Caps more often.
India must prepare well for Bracewell
New Zealand batter Michael Bracewell has hit 17 boundaries (10 fours, seven sixes) during the death overs (41st to 50th) in men's ODIs in 2022, more than any other player from a Test-playing country this year.
If it comes to the crunch and Bracewell is at the wicket, New Zealand will fancy their chances.