New Zealand vs India 2020: India hope to resume WTC form in tough away conditions

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It is an important overseas Test series from India’s perspective. Whenever India travel overseas, there is a lot of buzz about their performance. And, the buzz increases when they play in any of the SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) countries. On this tour, India’s run in New Zealand started on 24 January with a five-match T20 series. The Men in Blue kicked off their campaign in the Kiwi land in some fashion, clean sweeping the T20I series. However, the hosts bounced back in the 50-over format and clinched the three-match ODI series by 3-0.

While starting their caravan in the longest format, India won’t be worried about their performance in the ODI series. However, the whitewash in ODIs would have made them hungrier to take lead in the first match of the Test series. Virat Kohli’s men have been in scintillating form in Tests of late. After a historic Test series triumph in Australia; India whitewashed the West Indies away from home and had an excellent home season against South Africa and Bangladesh.

However, the challenge is quite big against the Black Caps. Since 2000, they have won just one Test match in New Zealand – the lowest for them in any country. In this duration, their win-loss ratio (0.333) in the Kiwi land is the lowest for them in any nation, joint with England. In their previous series in New Zealand, the MS Dhoni-led team lost the two-match Test series by 0-1.

Also Read: Trent Boult waiting to get Virat Kohli out

Despite their poor record in the concerned nation, India do have a chance to win this Test series. Under the leadership of Virat Kohli, India have touched greater heights in this format. The No. 1 Test side is currently a much better team as compared to what they were during previous tours. India are yet to lose a match in the World Test Championship and are the current table-toppers with 360 points.

The Indian management needs to be spot on with their team selection considering conditions. The pitches in New Zealand for the Test matches, in recent times, have been a bit different as compared to decks in other parts of the world. The decks are generally flat with heavy grass on them. Since the grass is into the play for the first two days, batting is quite difficult in the first inning. After the first two days, batting becomes easier in the second inning when there isn’t enough grass on the deck.

Since 2016, the average inning score (417), runs per dismissal (44.55) and runs per over (3.43) are the highest in the second inning.

Batting numbers in New Zealand in Test cricket since 2016:

 

Innings in a Match

No. of Innings

Runs

Average Inning Score

Runs per dismissal

Runs per Over

1

19 5236 276 27.85 3.35

2

19 7931 417 44.55

3.43

3

19 5184 273 34.33 3.03

4

9 1645 183 35.00

2.96

A few talking points from India’s perspective:

Will the inexperienced opening pair step up?

Since India’s tour of South Africa in 2018, the Indian openers have had a forgettable run in Test cricket. India played a major share of Test cricket away from home in this period. Thus, their job was never going to be easy. The Indian openers were found out while facing potent attacks in difficult conditions. Away from home, the Indian opening partnership averaged about 21, having just five half-century stands in 27 innings. In this duration, the opening partnership’s average was the fifth-worst in the home of opposition.

Rohit Sharma who found his feet at the top of the order at home will not take part in this series due to calf-injury. And, in Rohit’s absence, Mayank Agarwal will be partnered by Prithvi Shaw. Both openers have a great Test record, albeit with small sample size.

Player

Innings Runs Average 100s 50s
Mayank Agarwal 13 872 56.62 3 3
Prithvi Shaw 3 237 118.50 1 1

The Karnataka-born has scored two double-hundreds as well. However, how well will Mayank fare in New Zealand is sceptical. He played an unofficial Test for India A against New Zealand A recently and bagged a pair of duck in both innings. The right-handed batsman hasn’t a good record in first-class cricket in New Zealand. In five innings, Agarwal has scored 149 runs with an average of less than 30. Mayank didn’t look comfortable against the moving ball in the ODI series as well.

All said and done, he scored 81 runs in the last inning of the practice match against New Zealand XI at Hamilton. That knock would have certainly boosted his confidence.

Also Read: No competition for place with Prithvi Shaw

As far as Shaw is concerned, his sample size is not large enough to make a judgement, both in international cricket and in first-class cricket in New Zealand.

The biggest challenge for Mayank and Shaw will be to tackle the new red-cherry against the likes of Trent Boult and Tim Southee. The challenge will get bigger if India bat first. As mentioned above, the grass on the deck which will offer more seam movement to the ball. Also, if the Kiwi bowlers find the swing in the air, India might be pushed into trouble. The opening duo should look to play the ball closer to the body. Mayank and Shaw play away from their body, and Shaw’s doesn’t move his feet his as well.

Saha or Pant and Ashwin or Jadeja?

Ever since Rishabh Pant’s Test debut in England, he has been India’s first-choice wicketkeeper for overseas tours. Pant didn’t get an opportunity in India’s recent home season because of Wriddhiman Saha’s superior wicketkeeping skills. Rishabh hasn’t featured in India’s last six T20Is, four ODIs and five Test matches. It would be interesting to see if India pick Pant, given the fact that the lad has warmed the bench for a while. Also, Saha was brilliant behind the stumps in the past two series.

However, India might prefer Pant to Saha because of the former’s superior batting skills. In the away tours, India do face batting issues. Also, the 22-year-old batted ahead of Saha in both innings of the three-day practice match. The southpaw scored 70 runs off just 65 balls when promoted to bat at four in the second inning. Pant performed the wicketkeeping duty in the practice match and grabbed three catches as well.

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After the Test series triumph in Australia, India’s head coach Ravi Shastri spoke that Kuldeep Yadav will India’s lead spinner in the Test cricket. However, the chinaman bowler who picked a five-wicket haul in his last Test match hasn’t featured in any Test game since then. And, Kuldeep failed to find a place for himself in the Indian squad for this series. Thus, India have to opt one between Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. India played Jadeja in their last away Test series in the West Indies. The Saurasthra-based all-rounder offers better overall value as compared to Ashwin. Jadeja has improved his batting by leaps and bounds in recent years, and is an asset in the lower order in the longest format.

However, if the Indian team management decides to have the better bowler of the two, Ashwin will be picked. Since the decks in New Zealand don’t offer much help, India might look to have the superior bowler. The pitches are generally hard and the off-spinner can get an extra bounce off the surface because of his height. In the practice-match, the Chennai-born batted ahead of Jadeja in both innings and bowled more overs as well.

Whilst Ashwin hasn’t played a Test match in New Zealand, Jadeja doesn’t boast of great record in New Zealand with the ball.

Test Performance of Ravindra Jadeja in New Zealand:

 

Matches

2

Innings

4

Wickets

3

Average

85.66

Strike Rate

178

Economy

2.88

 

India’s pace attack is ready to roar!

Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma have been played an important role in India's success in Test cricket.

Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma have been played an important role in India’s success in Test cricket.

The Indian pace attack has been in the spotlight for quite some time. Since, the Test series in South Africa in 2018, the pace battery of India has been doing a great job. Before the last home season, the Indian fast-bowlers bamboozled the opponents, majorly in favourable conditions. However, in the home series against South Africa and Bangladesh, they shined in India too. It should be noted that Jasprit Bumrah, the leader of the attack, didn’t take part in those series.

Jasprit Bumrah hasn’t been at his best since his return after injury. However, it would be silly to doubt him. Also, Test cricket will give him more time to settle. The right-arm pacer is a versatile bowler and doesn’t depend on conditions, necessarily, to deliver the goods. However, his ability to hit the deck hard will be very beneficial and crucial, once the pitch becomes easier for batting.

Also Read: The new Indian Fab 5 in Test Cricket

Mohammed Shami has been in scintillating form of late, particularly in the longest format. He has been just getting better and better with the time. The Bengal-born pacer is a seam bowler and extracts movement off the deck. Since there will be grass on the pitches in New Zealand for the first two days as expected, Shami will play an important role for India with the new ball. Also, Shami is capable of finding the reverse-swing with the old ball. Thus, he can provide breakthroughs to his side with the old ball as well.

Ishant Sharma who was doubtful for this series is deemed to be fit now. The right-arm pacer is a vital cog in India’s bowling unit without getting much limelight. Acting as a workhorse, the most experienced paceman of current pace attack has done his job brilliantly. India would want him to bowl with the new ball as he can swing the ball both ways. He also bowls a bit fuller now, not back of the length. The tall pacer can bowl long spells as well. One thing which India need to keep in mind that they shouldn’t make any hurry to have Ishant in the XI since he is returning from an injury.

Test Performance of current Indian pacers in New Zealand:

Player

Matches Innings Wickets Average Strike Rate Economy

Ishant Sharma

5 9 23 30.91 52.2 3.54

Mohammed Shami

2 4 10 35.10 59.9 3.51

*Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav and Navdeep Saini haven’t played a Test match in New Zealand.



Freelance Cricket Writer. I, a keen learner, write for my own satisfaction. Constructive feedbacks are always welcomed. Twitter - @mainlycricket