Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - More home ruthlessness on India's agenda as new era beckons. New coach Rahul Dravid can rest assured that the strong conviction and drive towards Tests will remain
New coach Rahul Dravid can rest assured that the strong conviction and drive towards Tests will remain
Among all the throwback to the Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri era of Indian cricket over the last four years, the most stirring anecdote has been of them getting together in 2017 and explicitly putting Test cricket at the very top of their priority. Rahul Dravid will not have the skipper right away in Kanpur to huddle with and chalk out much of the same plans, but he can rest assured that the strong conviction and drive towards Tests will remain.
Dravid's permanent coaching tenure with the senior side began less than 10 days after India bowed out of another limited-overs ICC event, symbolically putting improvements in the white-ball format in his to-do list. But with all that India have achieved in the last four years in red-ball cricket, the demands and the ceiling of expectations in Tests will be a lot higher.
India have won 25 of the 43 Tests under Shastri – the win percentage (58.1) nearly unmatched since the turn of the millennium under every other coach. Only Anil Kumble's short stint (12 wins in 17 Tests) boasts of better returns, but the significance dims in comparison. The team under Shastri also built itself up for unprecedented away successes and are one win (or draw) away in July to cross England off their list. They finished second-best in the WTC final in June but were unarguably the best Test side through the course of the cycle leading up to that one game in Southampton.
Dravid will get his chance to add to the away laurels in less than a month's time, when India travel to South Africa where they've never won a Test series. But before that, there's a high level of ruthless efficiency to be kept going at home, where India have 12 wins in 15 Tests, a solitary loss and six out of six series victories under Shastri. That India will be without several first-choice players, and be up against World Test champions New Zealand, will count for precious little at home – they already have 26 points in the ongoing WTC cycle, and the overwhelming anticipation will be to add another 24 by December 7.
New Zealand will know all about building absolute fortresses in home conditions. Since the start of 2011, they've lost just five of the 43 home Tests – a tally similar to India's where visiting teams have won four out of 47 games in the same period. The era under Gary Stead since 2018 has also been a bold one, as New Zealand have enjoyed success over Pakistan in UAE and even secured a drawn series in Sri Lanka.
A victory in India's backyard – first since 1988 – could truly be the most emphatic way to kickstart their Test title defence. New Zealand's 15-man squad have only got two days of training together but will fancy their chances in Green Park, where India's batting will be light on experience and form.
When: India vs New Zealand, 1st Test, November 25-29, 9:30 AM Local Time
Where: Green Park, Kanpur
What to expect: The venue has hosted 22 Tests in all, with the first one way back in 1952. But only four of those have happened there since 2000 – and only one in the previous decade, in 2016, which was also the last Test there. That too, incidentally, was against New Zealand where the surface was low and slow – allowing Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to pick 16 of the 20 opposition wickets. Expect much of the same.
India:The hosts may have had plans of moving Shubman Gill to the middle order but that has been thwarted by a late injury to KL Rahul. Gill will now open with Mayank Agarwal, and Shreyas Iyer – who is confirmed to make his debut – will slot in at No. 4.
Rahane said he expects the pitch to take some spin while ducking questions about the bowling combination. If the surface behaves anything like it did the last time India played at the venue, expect them to go for a spin troika with the addition of Axar Patel, and pick just two quicks.
Probable XI: Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shreyas Iyer, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddihman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj/Umesh Yadav
New Zealand:In Devon Conway's absence, Will Young should take up the opener's role while Tom Blundell slots into the middle-order. The bowling combination is going to present a headache for the visitors too – in deciding whether they pick two spinners and a spin allrounder with two quicks or go with their strength and field three pacers. The conditions are expected to point them in the direction of the former idea, with Mitchell Santner coming in as the spin allrounder. India's recent susceptibility against spin could also tip the scales in that direction.
This means one of Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson – who skipped the T20I series to gear up for the Tests – will have to sit out.
Probable XI: Tom Latham, Will Young, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Tom Blundell, Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson/Neil Wagner, Tim Southee, Ajaz Patel, Will Somerville
Did You Know:
– In five home Tests against New Zealand, Ashwin has picked 45 wickets at an average of 15.91, including six five-fers and three ten-fers.
– When New Zealand last won a Test match in India, only four members of their current squad were born. The oldest of the four, Ross Taylor, was only four years old then.
– The Kanpur Test will be Shreyas Iyer's first first-class appearance since an Irani Cup fixture in February 2019.
– The last time Rahane played a home Test against New Zealand, he hit his career-best of 188. In 49 Tests since, he averages only 33.07 and his career average dropped from 51.37 to 39.63.
What They Said:
“Preparation has been really good. We got five days in Mumbai, which I thought was really good. It was all about how to conquer spin and bounce, and what sort of shots we need to play. The idea was to get used to the pace and bounce in spinning conditions and then back ourselves. We had two practice sessions in Kanpur so we've got an idea of how the wicket will behave so we're ready.” – Ajinkya Rahane
“We feed off each other quite well. He offers that height and bounce, whereas I offer that low skid and as a left-arm spinner and a right-arm off-spinner, we're both turning it in different ways. It's always cool to be playing together. There will be times when he's attacking and other times when I'm attacking and vice versa. We have a good understanding now we've played a few games together, so it's exciting to kind of have the opportunity to go back out there and do it again.” – Ajaz Patel on bowling in tandem with Will Somerville.