India Aiming For Whitewash; Kiwis Looking to save some pride

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Kohli Confirms Gambhir’s Return As India Eye Clean Sweep; Williamson May Play

“Samandar jaisa dil kiska hai? Samandar Singh Chauhan ka (Whose heart is as big as the sea? Samandar Singh Chauhan’s).“Samandar Singh Chauhan, 54, is the chief curator at the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA).More famously, he is the man who prepared the two wickets -in Gwalior and Indore -where Sachin Tendulkar (against South Africa in 2010) and Virender Sehwag (against West Indies in 2011) scored their respective One-day International double hundreds.

Singh looks back at these milestone pitches with great pride. He is famous for being MP’s 200-man. His heart, say MPCA locals, is as big as the samandar (sea) when it comes to handing out belters. He was at the Holkar Stadium throughout Thurs day and Friday, working on the track that will play host to the first-ever Test match in Indore.

India and New Zealand, gearing up to play the last of the three-Test series starting on Saturday , will hope for Singh to put his expertise on display . The series hasn’t seen a single century yet and India, having won it 2-0, already will aim for a whitewash while New Zealand, having showed promise but in phases, will look to strike a consolation.

Moments after the coin is tossed, Singh’s work will once again be the centre of all attention.

Speaking of the toss, Virat Kohli has won them six in a row now. The India skipper will want to win the seventh too, considering what his New Zealand counterpart Kane Williamson ­ back in the team after missing the second Test in Kolkata due to a viral ­ is looking to do. Williamson was clear that he’ll expect New Zealand to strike a big first innings total ­ one of the options, he believes will help his side counter India’s domination ­ and there’s no doubting that given a choice, he’ll prefer to bat first.

The New Zealand skipper isn’t the only one who was bogged down by fever in this series so far. India have survived injuries and illnesses to four of their players so far -Ishant Sharma (chikungunya), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (back strain), KL Rahul (hamstring) and Shikhar Dhawan (thumb) ­ and have been left with little choice but to keep stitching up options.

That scenario alone will allow 34-year-old Gautam Gambhir to walk out with Murali Vijay to open the innings. “It’s only natural because he’s the only reserve opener,“ Kohli said on the eve of the match.

The India skipper is on a high and that’s not because the series is already won. He’s in a happy space that this series win has allowed India to achieve the number one world ranking in Test cricket so early in a long home season. Kohli says he’s learned a lot as captain so far.

“One thing that stands out for me as a learning (curve) is how to control a session that’s not going your way.The session when the other team is batting well, you should know how to control runs and at the same time not go negative,“ he said, responding to how he finally managed some runs with a 65-ball 45 in the second innings in Kolkata.

Weather permitting ­ there have been untimely showers in the past couple of days ­ it will be an interesting Test for the crowd and the cricketers. That’s not just because it’ll be a first for Indore: cricket has been played more in the courtroom of late.

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