KANPUR: When the two-match series against New Zealand starts, hosts India would look to avenge the defeat of the World Test Championship (WTC) final, however, the task would not be easy as the upbeat Kiwis will come out all guns blazing at the Green Park Stadium in the opening game, starting Thursday.
India is expected to enter the contest with confidence having beaten New Zealand 3-0 in the recently-concluded T20I series, but an injury to KL Rahul has now meant that the team will be without the services of three top-class batsmen in Rahul, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Kohli and Rohit have been rested with an eye on their workload in recent times.
In the first Test, Ajinkya Rahane will be leading the side in Kohli’s absence and with Rahul now missing, it will be all about Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara rising to the challenge in the middle-order.
India has also given rest to the likes of Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and it needs to be seen what combination head coach Rahul Dravid feels comfortable with. The spin department is well taken care of as Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Ravindra Jadeja are all available for selection.
Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav are expected to be the first choice pacers, looking at the experience they have and Kanpur wicket is also expected to offer some reverse swing as the game progresses on.
When it comes to the batting scheme of things, Mayank Agarwal is set to have Shubman Gill at the top. This series will be extremely important for Rahane and Pujara looking at how eyeballs have been on their performances in the past.
Coming to New Zealand, Kane Williamson will mark a return in the Test series, having taken a break from the T20Is. Pacer Trent Boult would not be available for selection, but the pace bowling department is taken care of with Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, and Neil Wagner.
One needs to see how spinners Ajaz Patel, Rachin Ravindra, and Mitchell Santner perform in the series as the heavy workload will fall on their shoulders looking at how Indian pitches deteriorate as the Test progresses.
Squads: India: Ajinkya Rahane (capt), Suryakumar Yadav, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Wriddhiman Saha, KS Bharat, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Md. Siraj, Prasidh Krishna.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Tom Blundell, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Will Somerville, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, Will Young. (ANI)