As many as 13 home tests are lined up for Virat Kohli’s young and energetic Indian side in the months to follow. The campaign to assert their dominance in test cricket will begin at home against New Zealand when the Blackcaps arrive here for a series of 3 test matches. This will be New Zealand’s first visit to India since 2012 for a test series. The last time New Zealand visited India in August 2012, they were massacred 2-0 in the 2 match series as R. Ashwin inflicted some serious damage towards the visitors.
This time around, though, New Zealand are a much-improved side. They might have lost their inspiring skipper Brendon McCullum, as he bid adieu to the game, but his successor is a decent candidate. Kane Williamson surely knows a thing or two about excelling in the testing Indian conditions. His century on test debut at Ahmadabad will still be a blissful memory.
The recent form of the two teams has been rather contradictory. While India comes on the back of a successful campaign in the Caribbean, where they won the 4 match series 2-0, the same cannot be said about New Zealand. After being hammered by South Africa at Centurion recently, Williamson will be eager to turn the fortunes of his side.
Considering the fact that India’s previous test assignment was a major success, one can expect the squad to remain more or less the same. Barring a couple of aspects, everything seems to be accurate for the Indians.
After an unforgettable last couple of months, KL Rahul is certain to open the innings for India. Recently, India’s former team director Ravi Shastri, under whom Rahul made his international debut, said that the right-hander was the most improved Indian batsman in the last one year. “KL Rahul is the most improved player in the world in last one year. He is not only good in Test cricket, but in other two formats. He has a great future ahead of him. He is certainly going to do well for India in all the formats,” Shastri recently told TOI.
But here lies a certain headache for the selectors. To partner Rahul, the choice lies between selecting the ever reliable M. Vijay and the flamboyant Shikhar Dhawan. In the fourth test in Trinidad, Dhawan was chosen to partner Rahul at the top. But ignoring a seasoned campaigner like Vijay for too long wouldn’t be appropriate.
The middle order will comprise of Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, and Ajinkya Rahane. Despite having an indifferent series, Pujara will be persisted with, considering his stunning record at home. Rohit Sharma, who was fully backed by skipper Virat Kohli in the Caribbean, is likely to be a reserve middle-order batsman. However, one shouldn’t be surprised if Rohit is chosen ahead of Pujara in one of the games.
With Wriddhiman Saha scoring a resilient ton at St. Lucia, he has pretty much cemented his place as the wicketkeeper. All-rounders will comprise of the Ashwin-Jadeja duo, as at home, their threat against the opposing batsmen simply gets amplified. Despite being dropped midway in the Caribbean, leg-spinner Amit Mishra should at least make it to the squad. On the slow and low tracks, he is a genuine match winner, and his last assignment at home against South Africa was a major success.
If the Indians opt for a 16 member squad, a maiden test call-up for Kuldeep Yadav can be expected. The chinaman bowler has been in sparkling form of late, as he put on a spirited show in the Duleep Trophy. His attributes can add serious variety to India’s scheme of things, and on dust bowls, he will be simply lethal.
The fast bowling department remains steady with Ishant Sharma as the designated spearhead. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who was the game changer in the third test against West Indies, will be a key member of the squad. The other pacers will be Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav.
India’s predicted squad vs New Zealand:
- KL. Rahul