Preview: India vs New Zealand test series


India will start a long 2016-17 home cricket season which will feature 12 test matches. It will begin with a three match test series against New Zealand with first match being played at Kanpur from 22 to 26 September. Let's have a look at a short preview of this series.

India will take on New Zealand on home soil after four years. Last time when Kiwis toured India, it was a disastrous tour for them as they lost both test matches by huge margins. Kiwi batsmen had no answer to raging turners that were presented to them in Hyderabad and Bangalore. Ravichandran Ashwin terrorized kiwis with his variations and sharp brain. He ended the series with 18 wickets in just three innings at an average of 13.11. Pragyan Ojha was not behind with 13 wickets in 3 innings at 18.46. 31 out of 40 wickets went to spinners against New Zealand. Only kiwi batsman who was able to show some fight was Ross Taylor who scored 157 runs at 39.25 in that series. Struggle of touring teams against spin in India isn't something new. Even teams like Australia was clean swept by India and South Africa avoided a whitewash courtesy of a Washout in Bangalore.

In last 3 years New Zealand cricket is on a roll. They drew a series in UAE in 2014 against Pakistan which teams like England and Australia failed to do. Also they have quality bowling attack this time around which is well balanced in terms of pace and spin. Although some ex Indian cricketers have already said that spin will be the deciding factor in this series, India can't take Kiwis lightly. They have quality spinners in Mark Craig, Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner who is a well known name in India after his exploits against India in T-20 world cup. Although two out of three spinners, Sodhi and Craig average above 40 in test cricket but still they are new to international cricket and have played mostly in seam friendly conditions and have shown signs of improvement over the past one year. Santner is least experienced among three but averages least among them. With 15 wickets in 7 games, he has an average of 29.55 and his main weapon is his accuracy. He can contribute a bit with the bat in the lower order as well so New Zealand can call him their version of Ravindra Jadeja.

As mentioned earlier, India is a graveyard for most touring batsmen specially those who are not from subcontinent. Even likes of Hashim Amla , Shane Watson, Ian Bell and Faf du Plessis have found it tough to score here. With pitch breaking apart from first day and balls keeping low and fielders around the bat, the batsmen who were born in seam or bounce friendly conditions are expected to struggle. Most of the Kiwi batsmen are not experienced in these conditions. Kiwi captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor who is now their most experienced player will have to step up and play big roles here. Unlike other young batsmen who have struggled in subcontinent, Kane Williamson has a decent record here. In 12 test matches which he have played in subcontinent he has scored 1000 runs with four centuries and four half centuries but his record in India isn't that great. New Zealand will miss Brendon McCullum who led them against Pakistan in UAE where they drew that series 1-1. He led them with the bat as well. McCullum ended that series with 347 runs at 69.40.

Kiwis are going to start their campaign at Greenpark Stadium in Kanpur on 22nd September. India has hosted New Zealand in test matches twice at this venue. The first match that Kiwis played here was in November 1976 which was drawn. Again India hosted Kiwis at Greenpark in October 1999 and won the match by 8 wickets. Last time a test match was played in Kanpur was back in 2009 when India hosted Sri Lanka for a three match test series. India won the match by an inning and 144 runs. Six out of those players who were part of that match for India, have retired and rest five are not the part of the squad. It was the debut match for Pragyan Ojha. The pitch back then presented fast bowlers with seam moment early in the day for first two days and it was quite green during IPL games but looking at past few series, Kiwis can expect a dustbowl. The ground is situated near Ganga banks and with a 9:30 AM start, pace bowlers might get a bit of advantage earlier in the day but the pitch will break down under heat probably on very first day.

After Kanpur, The teams will travel Far East to Kolkata for second test starting 30th September. Test cricket is coming back to Kolkata after three years. The last time India played a test match there was Sachin Tendulkar's last test series and that match was penultimate match of Master Blaster in international cricket. India won that one sided match by an inning and 51 runs. Spinners have dominated on Eden Gardens pitch but occasionally fast bowlers have also used the reverse swing well to rattle the batsman. Mohammad Shami's debut test match is latest example of a fast bowler taking wickets on Eden dustbowl. New Zealand have Tim Southee who uses the reverse swing to good effect and this could be a threat for India but again India have Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami to use the reverse swing to full effect. Just like Greenpark, India has hosted New Zealand twice in a test match at Eden Gardens Once in 1955 and again ten years later in 1965 and both the matches ended in a draw. So historically Kiwis might love this ground.

Holker stadium, situated in Indore, Madhya Pradesh will make a test debut when India will take on New Zealand in the final match of the series on 8th October. So far it has hosted only four international matches all of them ODIs. India has won all of them. Holkar stadium is usually a high scoring venue but a dustbowl is expected even here for the test match. The heat in the afternoon will make life tough for the players as the forecast for four out of five days is plenty of sunshine. If New Zealand somehow managed to win either of first two games then this game will be much more interesting as India have never lost here.

Team Combination



India


India is expected to go in with three spinners like they did in West Indies. The Trio of Amit Mishra, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are expected to make full use of conditions. Jadeja individually is in great form prior to this series as we saw him taking a 10 wicket haul in Duleep Trophy final. Shikhar Dhawan might pay for his poor outings recently and concede his place to KL Rahul who might open with Murali Vijay followed by Pujara at 3, Kohli at 4, Rahane at 5 and Saha at 6. Cheteshwar Pujara was in great form in recently concluded Duleep Trophy as well.

New Zealand


New Zealand might go in with three spinners just like India. They also have an off spinner, a leg spinner and a left arm spinner who can bat a bit. Their fast bowlers will have to share greater responsibility as their spinners are not experienced enough and might falter under pressure. The batting department looks thin with only Williamson and Taylor are dependable batsmen and they have to share a huge piece of Workload. Martin Guptill despite being an experienced player now, struggles against quality spin bowling. Tom Latham has shown promise but is untested in such conditions.

Players to watch out for


Ravindra Jadeja:The left arm spinner who initially made his name with his batting, Ravindra Jadeja could be nightmare on dustbowls. Although he does not posses many variations, he is not afraid of bowling it full and invites the batsman to play his shots. His arm bowl is very deceptive for even best of the batsmen. Prior to the series, he has already announced his intentions with a five wicket haul in both innings of Duleep trophy final.

Kane Williamson Kane Williamson is currently backbone of New Zealand's batting lineup. He has a sound technique against spin and he is quite positive as well. Don't be surprised to see him batting out a draw or score ton or two on this tour. He is the only player in Kiwi squad who can tire out the bowlers and then make full use of it later.

Teams


India:Virat Kohli (C), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav.

New Zealand:Kane Williamson (C), Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, BJ Batling (WK), Luke Ronchi (WK), Neil Wagner, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi, Mark Craig, Mitchell Santner, Dough Bracewell, Jimmy Neesham and Henry Nicholls.


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