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India squad for NZ Tests: Injuries to Rohit and Hardik present opportunities for Shaw, Gill and Saini


India's 16-member squad for the Test series against New Zealand has presented opportunities to youngsters Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill. With Ishan Sharma's inclusion subject to fitness clearance, pacer Navdeep Saini has also been included in the squad.

Rohit Sharma injured, who opens?

Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal opened the innings for India in the three Test matches against South Africa and did a great job. Rohit was on song in the T20Is against New Zealand and the fans expected him to replicate his success in the longest format as well.

Even when Sharma aced the opening role in Test cricket, many were sceptical of his success in conducive conditions for bowlers and were looking forward to the Kiwi challenge. Sharma himself was keen to set the record straight. However, a calf injury will keep him out of the tour.

While Mayank Agarwal will continue opening the batting, he will have to partner with either of Prithvi Shaw or Shubman Gill. With an unbeaten double century against New Zealand A recently, Gill is slightly ahead in the race for now but a good ODI series for Prithvi Shaw could change the picture again.

How does the pace attack shape up w.r.t Ishant's injury?

India's most experienced red-ball pacer Ishant Sharma twisted his ankle while turning for an appeal in a Ranji Trophy match and is undergoing treatment at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. At the time, Sharma sustained the injury, it was feared that he might not be fit in time for the New Zealand tour. However, following a rapid recovery, he has been provisionally included in the squad but his inclusion is subject to fitness clearance.

This has meant that India have drafted an extra pace bowler in the form of Navdeep Saini, who is already with the white-ball squad. Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami will continue to be the other pacers in the attack.

Room for only two spinners

Kuldeep Yadav and Shahbaz Nadeem had been recently part of the Indian Test squad in the capacity of the third spinner. The management has decided to go in with only two specialist spin bowlers for the New Zealand tour.

Kuldeep Yadav has appeared in six Test matches for India and played his last five-day match in January 2019 in Australia. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have played ahead of him since then. New Zealand not known for providing assistance to spin bowlers has led to his axing from the squad.

Both Jadeja and Ashwin can contribute with the bat as well and offer more control as opposed to a more attacking option in the wrist spinner.

Will India miss a pace bowling all-rounder?

If there is any place which still incentivizes dibbly-dobbly bowlers, in a manner of saying, it is New Zealand. This is the reason why the country still possesses the likes of Colin de Grandhomme who may not be the quickest but are effective in conditions where the ball does something in the air as well as off the surface.

Hence, India would have wanted a pace-bowling all-rounder in their squad. Hardik Pandya, who was first supposed to be available for the T20Is, could not recover after his back surgery in time. He also missed the deadline for the ODI squad and another failure to prove his fitness as per the set standards has led to his comeback being further delayed.

The all-rounder would have certainly come in handy for India on this tour but his unavailability would mean that India will go in with five proper bowlers which is not a bad ploy either.

 Squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper), Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Ishant Sharma (subject to fitness clearance)

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