India vs New Zealand, 1st Test Preview: WTC Final scars still fresh, India look to settle scores in the comfort of home conditions
New Zealand haven't won a Test against India in India since 1988. They will have another shot at that against depleted hosts who will take the field without Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant and Jasprit Bumrah.
WTC memories still fresh
The last time both teams played Test cricket was in the final of the World Test Championship final and the memories of that encounter will be quite fresh.
While New Zealand will take confidence from their emphatic victory in the final and in the two-match Test series in their home conditions preceding the WTC final, India will look to settle scores after humiliating defeats.
The loss in the World Test Championship final - after having played some sensational Test cricket over the last couple of years - would have particularly hurt Virat Kohli's India. There's not a lot of factors though that will be similar to the WTC final - neither are the weather, nor the pictures, nor the playing combinations.
Can we have a balanced pitch, please
While India have been guilty of pushing it a bit too much as far as spin friendly surfaces go in their last few series at home, a slightly more balanced pitch is anticipated in Kanpur.
That does not mean that there won't be plenty in it for the spinners and the likes of Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin will certainly be a handful for the New Zealand batters, many of whom are quite inexperienced when it comes to the subcontinental conditions.
Indian batting without Sharma, Rahul, Kohli and Pant
India, already weakened by the absence of Rohit Sharma at the top, suffered a body blow just a couple of days before the beginning of the match after KL Rahul was ruled out of the Test series due to an injury he picked up in the T20s. Shubman Gill, who was all set to play in the middle order in the absence of Virat Kohli, will now open the batting alongside Mayank Agarwal.
Suryakumar Yadav has been added to the squad as Rahul's replacement but Shreyas Iyer, who is ahead of him in the queue, should make the cut for the middle order role.
India are expected to go in with just two pace bowlers. One of them should be Umesh Yadav given his recent form and particularly impressive performances in the conditions of India.
Siraj or Ishant to accompany Umesh
Mohammed Siraj should play ahead of Ishant Sharma on current form but the Hyderabad pacer sustained an injury in the T20s and his place in the side will depend upon his fitness.
New Zealand will surely miss the services of Devon Conway who himself was really looking forward to trial by spin in the conditions of India. Will Young is expected to take his spot at the top of the order with Tom Blundell batting at no. 6 and taking over the wicket keeping duties after the retirement of Tom Latham.
Williamson key for NZ as always
Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls will hold fort in the middle order and their prowess against spin will play a major role in deciding the course of the series.
New Zealand can only afford to play two out of Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner. To give themselves the best chance, they should go in with Jamieson and Wagner. While Wagner provides the X Factor with his short of length bowling, Jamieson has batting ability as well. His height will also help to extract whatever uneven bounce is on offer.
William Somerville and Ajaz Patel will be New Zealand's specialist spinners. Mitchell Santner is expected to play as the spin bowling all-rounder.
Predicted playing XIs
India - Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (c), Shreyas Iyer, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravinchandran Ashiwn, Axar Patel, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj/Ishant Sharma
New Zealand - Tom Latham, Will Young, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Tom Blundell (wk), Kyle Jamieson, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee/Neil Wagner, Will Somerville, Ajaz Patel
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