Cricket: New Zealand will expect the worst in India

By David Leggat

New Zealand Cricket Team coach Mike Hesson. Photo / Mark Mitchell
New Zealand Cricket Team coach Mike Hesson. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It was once known as a land of mystery, enchantment and surprise, but New Zealand reckon there won't be anything in the pitch to raise the eyebrows when the first test against India starts at Kanpur's Green Park tomorrow.

"There will be plenty of assistance for spin, the pitch will deteriorate and there will be reverse swing, so no surprises," New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said today.

New Zealand's mindset will be to expect the worst as they go in search of just their third win in 31 tests in India, and if groundsman Shiv Kumar's confident assertion that the pitch won't play as badly as the tourists' fear proves correct, then all the better.

If captain Kane Williamson has one wish it would be to win the toss, and get the best of the batting conditions over the first two days. Then his batsmen must deliver.

Of New Zealand's batting group, world third-ranked Williamson (average 38.15 against India with two centuries) and Ross Taylor (41.18 with three) are the best equipped to handle the challenge.

But they can't do it on their own and the batsmen must have a game plan to not only survive but also score runs. Reserve wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi's philosophy of getting to the non-strikers' end to ensure longevity at the crease has plenty of sense to it.

The expectation is India will play two seamers at the most - and their most experienced, Ishant Sharma, has been ruled out with chikungunya, a mosquito-borne viral infection - witth three spinners. There's a chance they will open with tall offspinner Ravi Ashwin which New Zealand need to be ready for.

"It'll be no surprise if one or two spinners open with the new ball at some stage. We are prepared for it, but dealing with it out in the middle is quite a different story," Hesson said.

"You can jump at shadows sometimes, but we need to adapt to whatever we're confronted with. We've got an idea how the surface might play, but it could be quite different."

Ashwin took 20 wickets in two tests against South Africa on poor pitches last season. He has clever legspinner Amit Mishra and exuberant left armer Ravi Jadeja to help form a demanding trio.

In Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma, topped by skipper Virat Kohli - averaging 85.2 against New Zealand - India have a batting group chockful of quality, but some of whom can be vulnerable to pressure, in the form of maidens, being applied. They are assertive batsmen who don't fancy being pegged down.

New Zealand's key decision will be whether to match India and take three spinners into the test or two, with support from Williamson and Martin Guptill's occasional offspin.

They are likely to stick with Guptill to open the batting, even though he's averaging just 24 against India and is in a lean run of form.

New Zealand's last series in India four years ago, produced two heavy defeats, Ashwin taking 18 wickets at 13 apiece.

The match is India's 500th test and expect the occasion to be marked in some way. India are second in the world; New Zealand have slipped to seventh. But in points terms, there's not too much between them.

New Zealand won their last series against India, at home in 2014, but that has no relevance to this challenge. New Zealand believe they are ready. We're about to find out.

India v New Zealand
Kanpur, starts 4pm tomorrow
India: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddiman Saha, Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar,
New Zealand: (from) Kane Williamson (c), Tom Latham, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Mark Craig, Ish Sodhi, Neil Wagner, Doug Bracewell, Trent Boult.

India v New Zealand all-time:
54 tests
India won 18, New Zealand 10, drawn 26
In India:
31 tests
India won 13, New Zealand won 2, drawn 16

- NZ Herald

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