Given the incisiveness of the Kiwi pacemen, it might be hard going for an inexperienced batting line-up
The Indians face a test of mind and technique in the two-Test series beginning at the Eden Park here on Thursday. A fired up New Zealand pace attack would surely attempt to open up the batsmen with well-directed short-pitched bowling, combined with fuller length balls, that could disrupt their footwork.
Battered in the ODI series, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men are expected to undergo a more comprehensive examination of skills in the Tests.
The ebb and flow of a Test match is different and there would be greater space to create opportunities. There is more time to build, and the batsman is without the worries of an asking rate.
But then, greater danger lurks. The cordon behind the wickets can be busy with edges flying thick and fast. The pacemen bowl longer spells and find their rhythm. The pressure to survive is immense.
Given the incisiveness — that precious ability to execute plans — of the Kiwi pacemen, it might be hard going for an inexperienced batting line-up in both the Tests.
New Zealand coach Mike Hesson wants grassy pitches for the Test here and in Wellington. The drop-in surface at the Eden Park has a dash of green and is expected to assist seamers on the first two days at least.
To make matters a little complicated though, the track here has in the past tended to flatten out. The feeling, however, is that the pitch this time around could have more juice in it for the seamers.Sound start needed
India requires a sound start from its openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan. If the sluice gates are opened early, Trent Boult & Co can make inroads.
Vijay’s hard fought 97 against South Africa in Durban offers hope. The left-handed Dhawan, desperately seeking runs, has been hurt by lack of feet movement.
How the Indian batting fares in the series could hinge on the technical purity and innings building skills of Cheteshwar Pujara and the exceptional shot-making ability of Virat Kohli. Will Ajinkya Rahane regain his confidence after a forgettable ODI series? To his credit, the little batsman timed the ball sweetly off either foot in South Africa.
India has the option of playing five bowlers — three pacemen and two spinners — with Dhoni coming in at No. 6 followed by all-rounders R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
It would be a gutsy move that would lend the attack greater balance. And Ashwin’s batting technique in these conditions is better than that of several specialist batsmen in this side.
The faltering Rohit Sharma, however, is expected to get another opportunity. He needs to ‘play’ and ‘leave.’
Considering his six-wicket innings haul in the last Test India played, Jadeja could get the nod as the lone spinner.
The man to watch out for in the Indian attack will be Zaheer Khan — with his wealth of experience and a bag of tricks.Batting depth
The Kiwis have batting depth. Down the order, Brendon McCullum and Corey Anderson are game-changers.
There is strength in the middle too. Ross Taylor is in the form of his life. And Kane Williamson has been solid with his secure defence.
In the inconsistent opening pair of Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford, the Indians might sense an opportunity.
In the Kiwi pace attack, left-armer Boult swings the ball both ways at a lively pace. Tim Southee is a right-arm swing bowler, so the angle will be different. And Niel Wagner runs in hard and hustles the batsmen with his left-arm pace. Ish Sodhi has a useful wrong ’un but the Indians might go after him.
The teams (from): India: M.S. Dhoni (captain), M. Vijay, S. Dhawan, C. Pujara, V. Kohli, A. Rahane, Rohit Sharma, R. Ashwin, R. Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, M. Shami, A. Rayudu, U. Yadav, I. Pandey, W. Saha and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
New Zealand: B. McCullum (captain), P. Fulton, H. Rutherford, K. Williamson, R. Taylor, C. Anderson, B.J. Watling, T. Southee, T. Boult, D. Bracewell, Ish Sodhi, N. Wagner and J. Ryder.
Play starts at 3.30 a.m. (IST) on Thursday.