Loopholes in India’s famed batting line-up and problems in their technique were exposed in adverse conditions against the unstoppable New Zealand pace attack in the first Test match.
Entering the second game with a bruised pride, the tourists will face its hour of reckoning against the pace-strong Kiwis, threatening to be relentless with its short ball tactic in the Test starting on Saturday (February 29).
Virat Kohli’s men are holding the top spot on the World Test Championship table with 8 points in their kitty, however, the ignominy of a three-day defeat in the first test against New Zealand has certainly jolted a batting line-up that prides itself in performing in tough conditions.
None other than the Men In Blue’s head coach agreed to it when he said, “A shakeup like this is good as it opens your mindset. When you are on the road all the time and have not tasted defeat, it can close your mindset.”
Shastri was forthright in his admission that complacency had crept in somewhere but will it stop the Indian men’s team from facing a tougher Test challenge on a green top at the Hagley Oval where the Black Caps have won all but one Test.
With the peerless practitioner of the short-ball tactic Neil Wagner joining Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Kyle Jamieson in aiming for the rib cage from round the wicket, there will be more probing questions on offer during the next five days.
Meanwhile, good news has come for India as the young Prithvi Shaw made a comeback in the nets with an extensive session under watchful eyes of the coach and some valuable tips from the skipper.
“Prithvi is ready to go,” the coach cleared the air on the opener’s fitness.
What the Indian squad will now want is for the Big Test 3 — Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Ajinkya Rahane to set the terrain for the team to perform.
The visitors would also want one among Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, and Pujara to show positive intent as their identical defensive game is bound to put too much pressure on skipper Kohli.
Coming to Saturday, India, in all likelihood, will have one change in the playing XI from the last Test with Ravichandran Ashwin likely to lose his spot to Ravindra Jadeja.
While Shastri said that a call will be taken tomorrow on Jadeja and Ashwin, he gave enough hints that Saurashtra all-rounder has his nose ahead.
“You look at the conditions and also check how much a spinner would bowl. Ashwin is a world-class bowler but I guess he would be disappointed with his batting,” Shastri’s answer was a giveaway.
For New Zealand, it could be an all-pace attack considering that Ajaz Patel, the specialist left-arm spinner, had precious little to do at the Basin Reserve.
With Wagner getting his place back, the team management would find it difficult to bench Jamieson who won Man of the Match award on Test debut.
“It’s a good kind of worry to have for Kane,” senior pacer Trent Boult said when asked who among Jamieson and Patel would feature in the playing XI.
The green pitch will be hard, even bouncy with good carry, according to the curator and that’s exactly what Boult wants.
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“From a bowling perspective, its exciting (to see the pitch). I hope it stays that way. With cloud cover and a surface like this, seam and swing will be on offer,” Boult feels.
For the Indian team, it’s not only about batting as Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shamis underwhelming show at the Basin has also been a cause of concern. Their length was awry and failure to get the tail-enders quickly stuck out like a sore thumb.
Bumrah, in particular, has had an indifferent tour and this is the first time in his four-year international career where he is experiencing a bad patch. But his coach is very confident that a “five for or six-for” is just around the corner.
New Zealand (12): Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Blundell, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor, Colin de Grandhomme, BJ Watling (wk), Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Ajaz Patel
India (12): Virat Kohli (captain), Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shubman Gill.
Match starts at 4 am IST
(With inputs from agencies)