In-form India eye ascent to top in 2nd Test against NZ
Kolkata : In the middle of a 12-match unbeaten streak at home, India’s marauding cricket team will be aiming to reclaim the No.1 spot in ICC rankings when it takes on an unsettled New Zealand in the second Test starting here tomorrow.
With 10 wins and two draws in their last 12 matches, India have been unstoppable on home turf in a journey that began with the 1-2 series loss against England in December 2012.
They have begun a packed 13-Test home calendar by inflicting a massive 197-run defeat over the visiting Black Caps in their 500th Test.
Having entered the three-match series one lower than Pakistan, India will also look to reclaim the number one rankings in the ICC Test rankings with a victory at the Eden Test.
India did not put a foot wrong at the Green Park stadium even as Kohli’s bold move to go with a four-strong bowling attack surprised many.
The two Indian spinners — Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja — got fine support from the deteriorating Green Park wicket and they both accounted for 16 wickets.
The spin-mantra to get success at home has not changed even with the new set up under coach Anil Kumble and Kohli.
It will be no different at the Eden track, though the team think tank seems to be wary of the relaid wicket which will be used for the first time.
That means Kohli cannot afford to go with four bowlers on the Eden track which promises to offer spin only after a bit of wear and tear and leg-spinner Amit Mishra would certainly fancy his chances.
That India’s ace spinner Ashwin has a niggle — corn or thickened skin — on the middle finger of his bowling hand can be a worry for Kohli.
“I have a corn on my finger and I haven’t bowled a lot in the last 25 days,” Ashwin had said after the third day in Kanpur.
The 30-year-old off-spinner, playing just his 37th match, finished with match figures of 10-225, his fifth 10-wicket haul and joined the 200-club of Test wickets.
Ashwin, in fact stayed away from bowling at the nets and was seen chatting with the coach before trying out his hand briefly at batting.
Uncapped Haryana off-spinner Jayant Yadav, who was brought in as replacement for Ishant Sharma, is on stand-by if it becomes too painful for Ashwin to play here, something that may upset India’s plans.
The Haryana lad made his way through an impressive show in India A’s recent tour of Australia, picking up seven wickets in the unofficial Tests at 22.57 apiece.
In the 2014-15 Ranji Trophy, he topped Haryana’s bowling charts with 33 wickets, and in March this year, Yadav claimed a match haul of eight against Mumbai in the Irani Cup.
Yadav is also a handy batsman and has a first-class double-ton to his name. He also has a record-breaking eighth-wicket stand of 392, scored in partnership with Amit Mishra in 2012.
India have also recalled veteran left-handed opener Gautam Gambhir who last played a Test way back in August in August 2014, during the tour to England but it remains to be seen whether the 34-year-old will make his way into the XI at his IPL home-ground.
India also have Rohit Sharma back among runs in the second innings something that will put them in right frame of mind especially at his favourite venue where he had scored an ODI world record of 264.
While the bowling looked settled and batsmen also chipped in, it’s the their star batsman Kohli, who is long due for a big score since his 200 versus West Indies at North Sound in July.
Since then Kohli has scored 78 from five innings including 9 and 18 in Kanpur. The flamboyant Test skipper has, however, toiled hard at the nets with an eye to be back among the runs.
As for New Zealand, the visitors are set for a change in plan as far as their spin attack is concerned with veteran Jeetan Patel called in to replace injured off-spinner Mark Craig in their must-win Test.
Patel arrived earlier this morning from England where he was the leading wicket-taker in the County Championships, with 69 scalps for Warwickshire. The 36-year-old is likely to partner the impressive left-arm orthodox spinner Mitchell Santner and leg-spinner Ish Sodhi.
Santner was the biggest positive for New Zealand in the Kanpur Test and impressed with both bat and ball.
He scored 32 and 71 apart from his bowling figures of 3/94 and 2/79 to become the first New Zealander after Daniel Vettori to score more than 100 and take at least five wickets.
Apart from Santner, middle-order batsman Luke Ronchi, who scored a defiant 80 in the second innings, is also a key player for the Black Caps.
But Martin Guptill — who scored a 21 and 0 — remains a worry. The visiting batsmen will have to bat in sessions in order to build their innings in the subcontinent conditions.
There was a good partnership between skipper Kane Williamson and Tom Latham in the first innings, but they then lost three wickets for 11 runs.
A partnership between Santner and Ronchi followed, but another collapse of five wickets for seven runs resulted in a 56-run first-innings deficit.
Lastly both teams will keep their fingers crossed with the conditions overcast and muggy as the relaid Eden Gardens outfield may be tested should there be rain.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Jeetan Patel, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, James Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner and BJ Watling.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshvar Kumar, Amit Mishra, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav and Jayant Yadav.
Match to start at 9.30am IST.