India now have the chance to play New Zealand in their own conditions. New Zealand now have the chance to prove they aren’t just WTC champions but also the best all-conditions Test team in the world.
This should be one of the most eagerly anticipated series of recent times, but just look at who won’t be lining up in Kanpur even though they’re fully fit: Kohli, Rohit, Pant, Bumrah, Shami, Boult, de Grandhomme. It’s the reality of these times. There’s endless, wall-to-wall cricket, most of it within biosecure bubbles, and, at some point, everyone needs a break.
And while India will start as heavy favourites as they always do at home, their batting line-up won’t wear its usual impregnable look, with Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant absent; with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane potentially rusty in addition to not having been in the best of form for close to two years; and with one or potentially two debutants set to feature.
In this line-up’s inexperience might lie New Zealand’s biggest opportunity.
India WLWDL (last five Tests, most recent first)
New Zealand WWDWW
In the spotlight
India (probable): 1 Mayank Agarwal, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 5 Shreyas Iyer, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Axar Patel/Suryakumar Yadav, 10 and 11 two out of Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Tom Latham, 2 Will Young, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 Tom Blundell (wk), 7 Mitchell Santner/Kyle Jamieson, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Neil Wagner, 10 Will Somerville, 11 Ajaz Patel.
Pitch and conditions
Stats and trivia
“When we play on spin-friendly wickets, it is a challenge even for Indian batsmen. But as batsmen once you are in you have to make it count. It is a challenge and we accept that. We are not bothered about our runs, but as a team we want to win each and every game.”
Ajinkya Rahane says India’s batters don’t mind it if their averages suffer in the team’s quest for Test wins
“I’ve got Wags (Neil Wagner) and Timmy (Tim Southee) here, so that’ll be good to bounce ideas of them, to get their expertise on how to bowl here. It’s certainly going to be a different challenge to what we get back home but really looking forward to it.”
Kyle Jamieson looks forward to the biggest challenge of his career so far
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo