To take on New Zealand XI in a two-day practice game

This sleepy resort town in the northern part of the country is distant from the hustle and bustle of an ODI series.

People come here for the sea and the fresh air. The Indian team has travelled to these parts to regain lost belief after a 4-0 drubbing in the ODI series.

Of course, the formats are not the same. The dynamics of the two-Test series with some crucial changes in the protagonists could be different from that of a Test.

Then again, confidence is a precious attribute and the Indians, presently, are seriously short of this quality.

The nature of modern-day scheduling is such that India, with just a day’s gap after the Wellington ODI, will feature in a two-day practice game against a New Zealand XI at the Cobham Oval here from Sunday.

The Test specialists Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay, Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav and Wriddhiman Saha have joined the team and might get a look-in at different stages of the match.

Key man Pujara will be eyeing a big score here to get into the right frame of mind ahead of the Auckland Test, beginning on February 6.

This technically pleasing right-hander and the counter-punching Virat Kohli carry much of India’s batting hopes with them.

Since this is not a first-class contest, almost all the Indian cricketers could receive an opportunity to bat or bowl.

New Zealand Test openers Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford were due to play here but subsequently pulled out. The feeling was that the duo would be better off playing in the Plunket Shield first-class matches.

The New Zealand XI has some promising first-class cricketers and a few top under-19 players.

Robert O’ Donnell, in for this game, is the captain of the side that will take part in the under-19 World Cup in UAE.

It will suit India if the surface for the duel provides assistance to the pacemen.

Opener Murali Vijay was among the runs in South Africa, narrowly missing a hundred in the Durban Test. He would be aiming for a sizable contribution here.

And Shikhar Dhawan, woefully out of form, will be desperately seeking runs. The left-hander has to cut out the frills and play closer to his body. In the ODIs, his footwork was awry.

A good start by India would send the right signals.

In the middle-order, Rohit Sharma’s methods were unconvincing in South Africa. They were disappointing here too for most part in the ODIs.

The crafty Zaheer will look to ease into an ideal bowling rhythm. And the pacey Umesh Yadav would be keen to prove a point or two.

And there could be a little duel within a duel between off-spinner R. Ashwin and left-armer Ravindra Jadeja, both possessing valuable batting ability.

At stake could be the lone spot for a spinner in Tests. Jadeja’s six-wicket innings haul in the Durban Test might give him an edge.

Yet, given his potential with the willow, the team-management could consider playing Ashwin for a specialist batsman.

It’s a scenario where India would have five bowlers, two of them all-rounders.

The teams:

India (from): M.S. Dhoni (captain), M. Vijay, S. Dhawan, C. Pujara, V. Kohli, A. Rahane, Rohit Sharma, A. Rayudu, R. Ashwin, R. Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, M. Shami, U. Yadav, I. Pandey, W. Saha and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

New Zealand XI: George Worker, Robert O’ Donnell, Roald Badenhorst, Jono Boult, Anton Devcich, Tipene Friday, Jono Hickey, Shawn Hicks, Iain McPeake, Tim Seifert (wk), Ill Tugaga and Henry Walsh.

Match starts at 3 a.m. IST


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