Redemption may be too grand a word, but the least New Zealand will expect of itself, when the second Airtel Test against India begins here on Friday, is a fight. Humbled in the West Indies, and in the first Test at Hyderabad last week, Ross Taylor’s men owe themselves — if no one else — some urgent reassurance.
The victory over Australia at Hobart — New Zealand’s first overseas defeat of a major nation since June 2002, a result hailed as a new dawn at that time — now seems from a distant age.
First Sunil Narine and Narsingh Deonarine, and now R. Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, have brutally crushed any illusions of progress. In their last three Tests, the Kiwis have surrendered 36 wickets to spin bowling.
The visitor seems to have accepted, however, that at 1-0 down in a two-match series, there is little point being cautious. Talk from the camp has been of being bolder and braver, now that there’s little to lose.
Taylor’s men appear to have been stung by the manner of the defeat in the first Test. They trained the day after the match, and at the nets in Bangalore had left-arm spinners Daniel Vettori and Ronnie Hira (both only in the T20 squad) bowling to the batsmen.
Mature batting — of the sort that Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson demonstrated on the final morning at Hyderabad — has been desperately missing.
Taylor himself has been severely guilty in that regard. He averages less than 30 (from 15 innings) in the last 12 months, and has scored two hundreds in his last 29 outings. The 28-year-old will have fond memories of the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, though.
It was not too long ago that he was the darling of the crowds here, a match-winner for RCB with his monstrous hits over midwicket. Some of the same confidence will come in handy now.
The skipper indicated at the pre-match press conference that he would stick with the same team again, calls for the inclusion of B.J. Watling, who had a good tour of the Caribbean, as wicketkeeper notwithstanding. Faith in a young side, he feels, is more important than expedient measures.
In any case, he and New Zealand will expect little respite from India. The pitch will do them no favours; although there was some grass on it on the eve of the match, it is obvious there will be little left come Friday morning.
However, should the skies remain overcast, like they have all week, the tourist will hope for success with the new ball.
Same squad likely
India will likely field an unchanged side, with R. Ashwin — seven wickets away from getting to 50 in eight Tests, a feat equalled or bettered by only seven bowlers in history — and Pragyan Ojha will be chomping at the bit.
Their success should not paper over issues with the batting, that of India’s long-term opening pair and number six, but these are not immediate concerns.
New Zealand has won only two of its 30 Tests on Indian soil; a third does not seem around the corner.
The teams (from):
India: M.S. Dhoni (capt.), V. Sehwag, G. Gambhir, C. Pujara, S. Tendulkar, V. Kohli, S. Raina, R. Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, U. Yadav, P. Ojha, S. Badrinath, I. Sharma, P. Chawla and A. Rahane.
New Zealand: Ross Taylor (capt.), B. McCullum, M. Guptill, D. Flynn, K. Williamson, J. Franklin, K. van Wyk, T. Southee, D. Bracewell, J. Patel, C. Martin, T. Boult, B.J. Watling, T. Nethula and N. Wagner.
Umpires: Ian Gould and Steve Davis; Third umpire: Sudhir Asnani; Match referee: Chris Broad.
Play starts at 9.30 a.m.