Billed as ‘India Cricket Season’, there is plenty of anticipation surrounding the 3-match series against New Zealand. With as many as 13 Tests scheduled in the coming months, the hosts would be keen on starting on the right foot under familiar conditions. The historical significance attached to the 500-mark should add to the melodrama.
Virat Kohli’s troops are also mindful that a victory by a margin of 2-0 or better will propel them towards the top of the Test rankings irrespective of what happens between Pakistan and West Indies in UAE. A strong showing in the opening match may go a long way in setting the tone for the remainder of the series.
However, an ambitious New Zealand side which is eager to break new ground awaits them. Led by the admirable Kane Williamson, they have got the personnel to at least give the home team a scare. The likes of Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and Mark Craig will have to quickly get themselves acquainted with leading the charge on spin-friendly pitches.
A wary Anil Kumble maintained, “New Zealand are not just good at home, but they tour really well, and we're aware of that. The fact that they have three spinners, yes, we watch them. At least, I watched two of the three spinners in the World T20. They played a significant role in New Zealand's progress. We respect the opposition and we know that New Zealand is a very potent team, not just in the spin department, but all-round as well. They have different variations in their spin attack - left-arm spinner, off spinner, leg spinner. That is something you don't often see in a foreign team.”
Venue – Green Park Stadium, Kanpur
Date – 22nd to 26th September (Thursday to Monday)
Time – 0930 IST/0400 GMT
Broadcast – Star Sports 1, 3 and HD 1, 3
Online Stream – www.starsports.com
India – DWDWW
New Zealand – LDWWL
The absence of pace spearhead Ishant Sharma due to a viral infection could make the think tank opt for three spinners. With Cheteshwar Pujara storming back to form in the recently completed Duleep Trophy, the number three spot seems to be sealed. Bhuvneshwar Kumar should retain his spot in the XI after impressing in the Caribbean tour.
The Kiwis will have to contend without the services of seam bowling all-rounder Jimmy Neesham due to a rib injury. Although the team management are backing under-fire Martin Guptill to turn his Test career around, Luke Ronchi’s aggressive ton from the top of the order in the warm-up match against Mumbai may force their hand.
KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami.
Tom Latham, Luke Ronchi/Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (WK), Mitchell Santner, Mark Craig, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult and Ish Sodhi.
Curator Shiv Kumar promises a traditional Indian Test surface which will assist run-making in the first half before the action starts to unravel rather rapidly during the last couple of days. But, the presence of numerous cracks prior to the match appears to suggest otherwise. Amidst the threat of rain, a hint of conventional swing might also come into play.
1) India are set to become the fourth nation to play 500 Tests and will join England (976), Australia (791) and West Indies (517).
2) Ashwin needs just seven wickets to reach 200 Test wickets. If that happens in this match, he will be the second quickest to the landmark after Australia‘s Clarrie Grimmett.
3) New Zealand have drawn their previous three Test series in Asia – 1-1 against Sri Lanka (2012), 0-0 against Bangladesh (2013) and 1-1 against Pakistan (at UAE, 2014).
4) The last time that the Kiwis won a Test match on Indian soil was way back in 1988 at the Wankhede.Published 21 Sep 2016, 10:45 IST