Ahead of India’s Test series against New Zealand, captain Virat Kohli spoke about the importance of the World Test Championship and how this tournament is more prestigious than any other ICC tournament. This sets the stage perfectly for India’s biggest test – the side is unbeaten in the tournament so far, but will be tested by New Zealand in their own conditions. A lot will depend on the side which is picked and how the key players respond to the challenges at hand.
Here in this article, we take a look at India’s predicted XI for the first Test match at Wellington.
Mayank had a bumper home season, but then hit a slump when he arrived in New Zealand. However, he found some form with an innings of 81 in the second game in the warm-up clash and this should give him confidence in the first Test against the likes of Trent Boult and Tim Southee.
After a stellar start to his Test career, Prithvi Shaw’s career hit a roadblock for a number of different reasons. However, he will have a chance to stake a claim to the opener’s slot, but the conditions on offer will test him. “Prithvi is a talented player and he has his own game and we want him to follow his instincts and play the way he does. Look, these guys have no baggage and are not desperate to perform in any manner,” the skipper said.
On a tricky surface in the first innings of the warm-up clash, Pujara showed his test credentials once again. He brought out his defensive game on a green surface and soaked in all the pressure. He will India’s fulcrum in the Test series around which the rest of the batting will have to rotate.
The captain did not take part in the warm-up clash and opted to train in the nets where he faced Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini. It has been an odd tour for Kohli – he has looked good but the scores have not followed. This Test series will be his chance to step up and make his presence felt.
India were reduced to 5 for 3 in the first innings in the warm-up game. Ajinkya Rahane came out, looked positive but then played one stroke too many and had to perish. He was brilliant in West Indies and then in the home Tests as well and has a good record in New Zealand. The vice-captain will need to be at his best against the New Zealand attack.
The biggest positive for India after the warm-up game was the form of Hanuma Vihari – on a tough track he shone and looked to be at ease. He notched up a century and could be the extra batsman India play in Wellington.
Rishabh Pant will have to wait for his chance as India could still persist with Wriddhiman Saha as the wicket-keeper batsman. The Bengal man is a far superior keeper and will be needed on a tracks and conditions where the ball is expected to seam and swing.
India could opt for Jadeja over Ashwin as the lone spinner in the first Test. Jadeja will also provide depth as far as the batting is required and his presence in the field will only be a bonus.
The biggest talking point in India’s dominance in Test cricket has been the resurgence of the pace bowlers. Shami, who has been brilliant, looked the best in the warm-up clash and depending on how he uses the wind, will be an absolute menace for New Zealand.
“He looked pretty normal like before, I mean before he got injured,” Kohli said after India’s practice session. “Pretty similar to how he was bowling before the ankle injury, and he was hitting good areas. Obviously he has got plenty of experience. He has played in New Zealand a couple of times before, and definitely his experience will be something that will be useful in the series. Really good to see him bowling with pace and in good areas.”
There was an injury cloud over Ishant, but his presence is a massive shot in the arm for Virat Kohli and in many ways, the lanky bowler will be the key in India’s attack.
“It is easy to criticise somebody from outside but it takes a lot to make a comeback. Nowadays people are making money by criticising players,” Shami said after Saturday’s play in Hamilton.
“What Bumrah has achieved for India, how can you even forget that or for that matter ignore it?
The Indian fast-bowling is a close unit and they hunt in a group. After a wicket-less ODI series, Bumrah was back at his best in the warm-up clash as he got disconcerting bounce and brilliant seam movement to account for two wickets. If the pitch and conditions will be favourable, expect the bowler to have an absolute party.
India’s predicted XI: Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah