India vs New Zealand 1st Test: Preview

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{/source}India are set to kick-off their Test campaign against New Zealand in a two-match Test series starting from August 23 at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium at Hyderabad. With two stalwarts – Rahul Dravid and VVS LAxman – having already announced their retirements, the hosts couldn’t have asked for a weaker opposition than New Zealand, as the Black Caps’ recent record in Test cricket suggests. They are only above Bangladesh in terms of ICC Test rankings and lost horribly in their series against West Indies recently.

However, the task won’t be as easy for the Indian team as it has been in the past. The Indian team, which had the most powerful middle-order from the past 15-16 years, will field three youngsters in the esteemed position. Players of the calibre of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman have retired and that leaves a big hole for India to fill. On top of that, Indian bowling attack is one of the weakest going around as apart from Zaheer Khan no other bowler has been consistent.

Indian batsmen came under heavy criticism during the debacle in England and Australia, but it is a fact that the bowlers were equal culprits as they failed as a unit and India struggled to pick 20 wickets in a Test match on most of the occasion.

As far as Indian bating is considered, it is going to be a very important series for Virender Sehwag. He has been highly inconsistent and needs to fire big. The retirement of the senior pros provides an opportunity for the youngsters as well. Players like Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Suresh Raina will be itching to have a go against a pretty ordinary Kiwi attack.

For New Zealand, this series holds a lot of importance, as the Black Caps haven’t been a dominant force in Test cricket in the past. But they never looked this weak. Their win against Australia in Australia showed that the Kiwis have got what it takes to win against the best of sides. They will be mighty disappointed with the way they played in the Caribbean and a good performance in India can lift their bruised confidence.

They will definitely miss the services of Daniel Vettori with both the bat and the ball. But they have some players in the side who can make a mark. Brendon McCullum made a double hundred last time the team toured India and there is no reason why he can’t replicate his performance. Ross Taylor is good against spinners and he will hold the key for the Kiwis. In the bowling department, Chris Martin will lead the attack. The last time he came close to win his team a Test match against India but VVS Laxman came to the rescue for the home team.

Indian team is looking to climb up the ladder in the Test rankings but even if they beat New Zealand 2-0 they will be on the fifth position. If they lose 2-0 (which is highly unlikely), the hosts will slip down to number six behind Sri Lanka.

Overall, it will be a series which will see the new Team India and it is the time for the youngsters to shine. The series will give youngsters ample opportunities before they face the real test against the teams like England, Australia and South Africa.



By Gaurav Jha

Indian Sports News