Daijiworld Media Network
Hyderabad, Aug 23 : Welcome one and all to the first Test between India and New Zealand from Hyderabad. India are playing a Test match after a gap of seven months and will look to start this season on a high. New Zealand, on the other hand, are coming off a disastrous tour of the West Indies where they were walloped across all formats. On paper, India look the favorites but New Zealand are capable of putting up a fight.
India and New Zealand are also playing in the U-19 semi-final at Townsville. NZ restricted India to 209/9, with left-arm spinner Ben Horne being the pick of the bowlers with 3/28.
Pitch report: It's evenly rolled, but it's very dry, with no grass whatsoever. We expect the pitch to take turn as the Test match progresses. The pitch has a bit of dampness, which will aid faster bowlers initially. With the humidity around, it might swing, but it will be tough conditions for the Kiwis.
India have won the toss and elected to bat
Dhoni: The wicket will assist spinners later on. The last game we played here was a draw. It's good to see a wicket like this in the sub-continent. There is something for the batsmen and the bowlers. The break helped us, especially in the fitness aspect. We'll miss Rahul Dravid and Laxman. They're legends of the game. Rahane, Ishant, Piyush and Badri are missing this game.
Taylor: The pitch is hard. We have played here in the IPL and seen that the wicket is hard. It was a disappointing tour of the West Indies but we had 1 and a half weeks to get over it. Chris Martin, Jeetan Patel and Franklin come in to the side.
Pujara: It has been a long time since I played Tests. I am feeling fresh and ready to go. I do not want to disclose where I will bat but I know which position I will be batting. We need to do well in this match and we have been waiting for it.
New Zealand (Playing XI): Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Daniel Flynn, Ross Taylor(c), Kane Williamson, James Franklin, Kruger van Wyk(w), Doug Bracewell, Jeetan Patel, Trent Boult, Chris Martin
India (Playing XI): Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar, Cheteshwar Pujara, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni(w/c), Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Umesh Yadav
Match Preview :
The 'wording' is out even before the first ball has been bowled. According to most cricket pundits, India will thrash New Zealand in the upcoming 2-Test series at home. Well, that may indeed, not be such an unbiased perspective given the track-record of the New Zealand Test side on their recent tours to India. They have not had a single Test win since Bombay in 1988-89 when Richard Hadlee and John Bracewell ran through the Indian line-up.
For India the retirement of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid will leave a huge hole the usually reliable middle order, leaving Sachin Tendulkar to shoulder more responsibility. The series also presents the perfect opportunity for youngsters to show what they're capable of and for India to show their intent in climbing up the ladder in the Test rankings.
The Kiwis lack match-winners in their side. There is no Martin Crowe, Stephen Fleming or Nathan Astle in this line-up, neither is there a Danny Morrison or a Dion Nash. To add to their misery, Daniel Vettori - the only true world-class cricketer in their ranks and probably their best all-rounder since Chris Cairns, has been ruled out of the Test series with an injury.
With such a backdrop and with not a particularly great history to fall back on, what can this present New Zealand side do differently that would change their destiny? They have made a positive statement at the start of the series by confirming that Brendon McCullum would open the innings along with Martin Guptill. Ross Taylor and the talented Kane Williamson would provide the backbone to the middle-order. Chris Martin who has troubled the famed Indian batting line-up on previous tours will lead the seam attack. Also, they have re-called James Franklin, who, if plays to his potential, could fill the role of that elusive all-rounder.
India, on the other hand would want to set their Test record straight and begin the home-season on a winning note. The scars of '0-8' are still afresh.
It would also be a chance for them to build a new team after the retirement of the stalwarts - Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Cheteshwar Pujara and Subramanium Badrinath would want to grab this opportunity with both their hands and cement a place in the Indian team.
Virat Kohli would certainly get to bat at No.3 and it will be fascinating to see how he copes with the challenges of the position. It will be huge ask to ask the promising right-hander to fill the void Rahul Dravid has left but Kohli whould welcome the opportunity and look to cash in. He is ranked amongst the best batsmen in the world in the shorter formats of the game, but this will be his real test and he would certainly not want his career to go the Yuvraj Singh way.
It would also be Ashwin's first chance to prove his credentials as the country's leading spinner on home soil.