You'd be best to not look at the numbers. On paper, when it comes to test cricket, New Zealand and India couldn't be further apart in terms of individual player statistics and pedigree.

India have the great Sachin Tendulkar in their ranks, one of the hottest batsman in the one-day game in Virat Kohli and they had the luxury of calling in Subramaniam Badrinath, who averages 60.74 in first-class cricket, to replace the retired VVS Laxman.

Only two players in the 15-strong New Zealand squad - Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson - boast career first-class marks above 40, while Tendulkar has nearly every batting record in the test game there is to own and has scored 15,470 runs in the whites.

India might be ranked fifth in the world to New Zealand's eighth, but the home side's ranking will have slipped because they haven't played a test series since January when they were soundly beaten 4-0 by Australia across the Tasman.


If - and that is a huge if - there is any chink in the Indian armour it comes in their middle order that has been stripped of some of it's class with the retirements of Rahul Dravid and Laxman this year.

Tendulkar is still there of course, but a couple of spots will be filled from the pool of Subramaniam Badrinath, Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Kohli - all players with glistening domestic records but they're yet to fill their boots at test level.

New Zealand spinner Tarun Nethula, who is in line to make his test debut in the country of his birth with Daniel Vettori missing through injury, said the Kiwis faced an uphill battle when the first match gets underway in Hyderabad on Thursday (NZT).

"The home team is always going to have that local advantage," Nethula said.

"But, we are good cricketers and as long as we play to our strengths and play well there's no reason why we can't challenge them and especially put them in a challenging position later on in the five days. [We need to] take wickets up front and really ask a lot more of their middle order. Get rid of the big boys and ask some of the inexperienced guys to step up."

New Zealand just need a find a way to get in to that middle order quickly, which will involve knocking over openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, pushing past Dravid's replacement at No 3 then dismissing the legendary Tendulkar who will likely bat at four.

The tour marks the start of Mike Hesson's tenure with the national side and Nethula said the team had responded well to the new coaching unit.

"They've brought in their ideas and their style of coaching, which I'm sure the boys have taken on board. It's new and different and hopefully it'll pay dividends in two days time."

New Zealand come in to the series having been soundly beaten 2-0 in two tests by the West Indies in the Caribbean recently, which was part of a tour where they lost eight of their nine games across all three formats against the Calypso Kings.

Taylor indicated during the week that Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill would open the batting this week but the rest of their line-up remains unclear, particularly the make-up of the bowling attack, which could include four seamers although Nethula also appears a likely inclusion.