India vs New Zealand 2016 2nd Test Preview
Hosts May Play Extra Bowler As NZ Fret Over Skipper’s Fitness
As in all three-match series, the second Test, starting at Eden Gardens on Friday, is the most important. It gives the Kiwis the chance to stage a comeback, while the Indians will try to seal the series with a game to spare. If another series victory at home is not motivation enough, Virat Kohli’s men stand on the threshold of becoming the No. 1 side in Tests by dislodging Pakistan from the top if they win here. Even a whitewash against the West Indies in their upcoming series in the UAE won’t be enough for Pakistan to reclaim the top spot.India skipper Virat Kohli, though, played down the ranking factor. “Records are not a motivation for me. A ranking or number can be temporary . It can change after a tight series. It can upset you, if you’re attached to it,“ he said at Friday’s pre-match press conference. “My thinking and the team’s thinking is that we work on our skills and maintain a standard,“ he remarked.
But that will be easier said than done. New Zealand may have lost the first Test but they weren’t outplayed in Kanpur. Although most of their batsmen had struggled against spin twins Ashwin and Jadeja, they too had moments they failed to capitalise on.
The Kiwis have shown the heart for a fight in recent years on foreign soil. In 2014, they lost to Pakistan by 248 runs in the first Test in Abu Dhabi before drawing the second in Dubai and winning the third by an innings in Sharjah. A year later, they lost the first Test by 124 runs at Lord’s, only to bounce back with a 199-run victory at Headingley .
The fact that the Eden track will not be spinner friendly, like Green Park was, will boost the Kiwis’ comeback hopes.
This is the first time that an Eden Test match is starting in September. The pitch is still unsettled after the ground-relaying work a couple of months back and with the monsoon refusing to leave the eastern coast, there will be moisture under the surface.
Although some grass was chopped off over the last two days, there’s still a tinge of green. The pitch is expected to assist seamers early on but may get slow and low thereafter. In such a scenario, India may tinker with their combination and play an extra bowler, in the form of pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar or leg-spinner Amit Mishra. Recently-summoned Jayant Yadav is also an option if India prefer to unleash a second off-spinner. But then they will have to sacrifice a batsman and with KL Rahul out with an injury , Cheteshwar Pujara or Ajinkya Rahane may be pushed up to the top of order to partner Murali Vijay . Although Gautam Gambhir has joined the squad as Rahul’s replacement, his comback may have to wait. Williamson skips nets New Zealand’s biggest worry is skipper Kane Williamson, who skipped practice on Thursday after being down with a bug.
It is difficult to find a replacement for Williamson. The visitors are once again likely to go in with three spinners, with Jeetan Patel -who arrived in the early hours of Thursday as the injured Mark Craig’s replacement -set to play his first Test since 2013.
With sporadic rain being forecast over the next five days, the weather is expected to play a part in this crucial Test. Martin Guptill’s form too is a worry.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar
New Zealand: Ross Taylor (captain), Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, BJ Watling (wicketkeeper), Mitchell Santner, Jeetan Patel, Matt Henry, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult
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