New Zealand’s tour of India marks the beginning of a crucial home stretch for the Men in Blue. Apart from the plethora of limited overs action, the Indian fans will get to see their side play 13 Test matches spread against the Black Caps, the Barmy Army, Bangladesh and the Aussies. This period gains added significance as it might play a stellar role in the kind of legacy Virat Kohli leaves behind as a Test skipper. He has shown a lot of promise so far in his short tenure and the pressure will be on him to guide his side to convincing series victories.
The first test against the Kiwis will be played at the Green Park in Kanpur. The pitch, as usual, has hogged the limelight prior to the start of the game. After the debacles in Australia and England, India has focused more on producing rank turners. The expected outcome of this decision was that the touring sides will feel completely out of depth and crumble like a cookie. What went unexpected was the amount of chinks in the armor of our own batsmen against quality spin bowling. England used this to their advantage en-route a historic series win in 2012. Other teams have also exploited this weakness in the Indian batting and so, it was not surprising when Anil Kumble, the current Indian coach, dismissed claims that the home team had demanded rank turners.
Irrespective, it is clear as daylight that spin will be India’s weapon of choice against their opponents. Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra form an extremely potent attack and they will be expected to deliver a significant portion of the goods. Though Ishant will miss the first test, the fast bowling corner looks well-knit with Shami, Bhuvi and Umesh to choose from. Lokesh Rahul’s scintillating exploits over the last 6 months mean that he will most likely replace Shikhar Dhawan at the top. Pujara will look to rediscover his old self through the course of this home swing and Saha will want to continue with his impressive lower order contributions. Vijay, Kohli and most importantly, Ajinkya Rahane will be the batting main stays and the hosts will look up to these 3 to help post big totals. India go into the match as the favorites but they will need to hit top gear instantaneously as even a tiny blip might prove costly.
The Kiwis are coming off a 204 run loss to the Proteas at Centurion. Kane Williamson knows that his boys will have to punch way above their weights to beat India in their own backyard. He himself will be feeling a lot of heat as most of the team’s run scoring hopes revolve around him and Ross Taylor. There is also this exciting rivalry between Kohli and Williamson. Arguably the 2 best batsmen of their generation, each will be looking to pull one over the other both as a batsman and as a leader. New Zealand are expected to play all 3 spinners – Ish Sodhi, Mark Craig and Mitchell Santner. They will be hoping to expose India’s recent frailties against the turning ball. Williamson will look to attack the Men in Blue from the word go and gain the upper hand as quickly as possible because he knows how hard it’ll be for his side to fight back if they fall behind in these alien conditions.