The New Zealand cricketers will seldom get more clarity about the state of their one-day international side than after this morning's 2-1 series loss to India.

At the risk of squelching into apologists' quicksand, the six-run defeat chasing 338 to win the Kanpur decider provided clues as to their best XI for a World Cup which is 19 months away in England.

The Black Caps failed in their sixth attempt since 1988 to win an ODI series in India, but to come within two bat flourishes of their highest successful overseas chase made for compelling viewing.

Tom Latham was the revelation of the series.

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His morphing from a specialist test opener to a middle order limited overs wicketkeeper-batsman after Luke Ronchi's retirement will be on the shortlist for the year's selection masterstrokes.

A theory once persisted that Latham would struggle to succeed as a gloveman at international level. He shook that hypothesis to the core with athletic displays, particularly up to the stumps, conceding no byes and taking two catches across the three games. Add in his confidence batting against spin. Latham made 206 runs in three innings at a strike rate of 95, including an unbeaten century at Mumbai.

Of the 76 New Zealanders to bat in an ODI in India, Latham's average of 75 from eight innings is the highest for those who have batted more than three times. The next best is Nathan Astle's 47.81 from 11 outings.

He seemed ready made as a No.5.

Latham looked capable of orchestrating a victory in Kanpur, but exited for 65 off 52 balls after a run out mix-up with Colin de Grandhomme. New Zealand needed 26 runs to win from 14 balls at the time.

Captain Kane Williamson singled out Latham, alongside a pair of useful Henry Nicholls knocks, as boosting their middle order prowess.

"Tom batted with such clarity, and it was great to see him adopt that role.

"It's frustrating and disappointing to lose another decider in India but, if you step back and look at the work we put in, I think it's a promising thing for this Black Caps batting unit."

Earlier this year Colin Munro was a player considered ripe to pursue a freelance T20 career. In India he looked capable of forming a left hand-right hand ODI opening combination with Martin Guptill.

Munro is understood to have bonded well with former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum as part of the Trinbago Knight Riders in this year's Caribbean Premier League.

Perhaps he got some tips?

In the final ODI, Munro showcased his credentials with 75 from 62 balls, including scoring 18 of the 19 runs in the opening over (four were over-throws).

He demonstrated customary aggression against pace, but perhaps his best attribute came against spin. Munro appeared to play balls on their merit off the pitch rather than through the air, but gritted out a decent tenure before succumbing to a Yuzvendra Chahal leg break through the gate.

His 28 from 35 deliveries also softened the ball in the victorious Mumbai chase.

One area which could provoke selection scrutiny ahead of the World Cup will be whether Colin de Grandhomme plays a starting XI role. Given form and fitness, he would presumably contest for the No.7 all-rounder spot against Corey Anderson and Jimmy Neesham.

De Grandhomme has proven capable of sound 30s at around a run a ball, and made his top score in nine ODI innings with 41 from 40 balls at Pune.

Overnight he came to the wicket with 32 required from 19 and appeared to freeze after the Latham run out. He finished eight not out from 11 balls, albeit after facing some quality death bowling from Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

De Grandhomme also struggled to penetrate with the ball in the series, taking one wicket for 124 runs at an economy rate of 6.52.

He came close to a breakthrough in the 35th over of the decider when he and Latham almost had Kohli stumped. The following delivery saw a caught-and-bowled chance bounce before de Grandhomme's outstretched hand as he dived across the pitch. Perhaps he just needs more matches... and better luck.

Highest New Zealand ODI batting averages in India (five or more innings)
Player - Innings - Runs - Average - Strike rate - Highest score
Tom Latham - 8 - 450 - 75 - 92 - 103 no
Nathan Astle - 11- 526 - 47.81 - 81 - 120
Martin Crowe - 6 - 217 - 43.40 - 79 - 107 no
Andrew Jones - 5 - 209 - 41.80 - 65 - 66
Ken Rutherford - 8 - 326 - 40.75 - 71 - 108