India and New Zealand go head to head in the first of three Tests at Kanpur on Thursday 22 September.
Having stopped over in South Africa for a brief but entertaining two-match series, the Black Caps now focus their attention on a mammoth tour of India in which they play three Tests and five ODIs.
Having already drawn with Mumbai in a warm-up game, New Zealand will take on India in the first of the three Tests at Green Park in Kanpur.
India vs New Zealand | 22 September - 26 September | Kanpur, India
To Win Match
India 5/10 | Draw 22/10 | New Zealand 7/1
Anil Kimble’s India are pretty much at full strength for the start of this series with all 15 members of his squad established internationals. The hosts quite rightly come into this match as overwhelming favourites as they are near impossible to beat in Sub-Continent conditions – especially in India where local groundsmen like to ensure that Tests end in under three days.
Enough about the wickets though, let’s focus on the team. They simply don’t have any weaknesses when they play at home. In Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma; they have one of the best top orders in world cricket. All of them – with the exception of Sharma – average more than 40 in the longest format of the game.
While their batting line-up seems formidable, the off-spin duo of Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as well as the leg spinning Amit Mishra, have the tools to dismiss an often wobbly New Zealand side cheaply.
The two Indian players to keep an eye on for me during the first match will be Pujara and Jadeja. The former heads into this Test off the back of two massive scores for India Blue in the Duleep Trophy. His 166 against India Green was followed up by a massive 256 in the final as India Blue cruised to victory by 355 runs. He’s an absolute brute of a man with an attention span to boot. Once he gets in, he’s almost impossible to dismiss. His ability to rotate the strike against spinners while picking the gaps with consummate ease against the seamers. If he’s anywhere near his best, the Rajikot native will play a decisive role in the first Test.
Jadeja, on the other hand, is a completely different kettle of fish. An off-spinning all-rounder, the Saurashtra local has been an ever-present in the Test side when India have played in the Sub-Continent. He’s another player coming into the series after a barn-storming showing in the Duleep Trophy. A 10-wicket-haul in the final saw him finish third on the wicket taker’s list having only played one game – a phenomenal stat if you consider that he bowled against the likes of Dhawan, Gurkeerat Singh and Yuvraj Singh.
There really isn’t any weakness in this Indian side. Anil Kumble has an infinite number of combinations he can play in the first Test at Kanpur that will all likely get the job done against New Zealand.
Having had to endure the pace and bounce that South African decks are famous for, the Black Caps head to the Sub-Continent to play on what many believe will be vicious turners. Unlike India, Mike Hesson has a few injury headaches heading into the first Test in Kanpur.
Jimmy Neesham is set to miss the first Test with a rib injury while Tim Southee isn’t expected to take any part in the series after damaging his ankle in training. Scans revealed that the New Zealand seamer has grade two ligament damage which could keep him out for up to eight weeks and has returned home to begin his rehabilitation. His place in the squad has been taken by Matt Henry.
Right, looking at the New Zealand squad there really isn’t much to write home about. They’re a strong batting unit who will likely build their innings around the solidity of Tom Latham and Kane Williamson. The two top order batsmen are going to need to be in top form if the tourists are to find any joy in India. Interestingly enough, Latham has never played a Test on the Sub-Continent while Williamson’s average in India is 36 – a far cry from his career average of 51.08.
While the batting will be under the microscope, the New Zealand spinners will see this tour as a massive opportunity to showcase their skills on wickets that will no doubt assist them. Mark Craig and Ish Sodhi both failed to impress in the warm-up game against Mumbai and will need to put in better performances against an immensely strong Indian batting line-up.
Craig will need to keep things tight from his end while Sodhi will need to trust his flight and take wickets in his homeland. Whether or not the duo will be able to make inroads against India remains to be seen.
Verdict: India 5/10
India are simply too strong at home to really be bothered by New Zealand. They’re stronger in every single department and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the hosts claim an innings victory.
Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.