India vs New Zealand: Prithvi Shaw deserves Test recall

It is fairly certain that Shaw will open with the secure Mayank Agarwal in the first Test in Wellington, beginning February 21.

The selection of Prithvi Shaw ahead of the in-form K.L. Rahul suggests the selectors do not want to lose the gifted Shaw.   -  FILE PHOTO/ K.R. DEEPAK

The selectors had to make two, perhaps three, tough calls before selecting the 16-member squad for the two-Test series in New Zealand.

The wise men had to get their opening combination right in the absence of the injured Rohit Sharma, who had taken flight as a Test opener.

And the selection of Prithvi Shaw ahead of the in-form K.L. Rahul suggests the selectors do not want to lose the gifted Shaw, who has come through a demanding phase marked by suspension and injury.

In his three Test innings so far, all against the West Indies at home in 2018, Shaw’s scores were an impressive 134, 70 and 33 not out.

READ| Prithvi Shaw replaces Rohit Sharma in India squad for New Zealand Test series

It is fairly certain that Shaw will open with the secure Mayank Agarwal in the first Test in Wellington, beginning February 21. The ball will dart around and a sound start is essential.   

It is also clear that Shubman Gill, an elegant, free-flowing batsman, is being seen as a reserve opener, who can also step in at No. 3 or 4 if required.

Gills opens for Punjab but his recent scores of 83 and 204 not out for India ‘A’ against New Zealand `A’ at Christchurch were made at No. 4.

Outstanding white-ball form notwithstanding, Rahul has to add solidity to flamboyance, tighten his defence for the longest format.

Left-arm Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav is unlucky to miss out. After all, his last Test performance outside India was a five-wicket innings haul against Australia in Sydney.

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But then, the opportunities for this skilful spinner would have been limited with R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja around.

The spinners have had their moments in New Zealand; it’s not all about seamers. Since 2013, the Kiwis have won five out of their nine matches at Wellington’s Basin Reserve, drawn two and lost two.

The two defeats came against Australia and South Africa with Nathan Lyon and Keshav Maharaj essaying dominant roles.

Bowling against the rough winds at the Basin Reserve is a physically demanding task in itself but the spinners with control can lock one end up - the pacemen can attack with the wind behind their back - and strike too since they will achieve dip and drift.

READ| Rohit Sharma ruled out of New Zealand ODI and Test series

Rishabh Pant’s selection - he is value for money outside the sub-continent because of his aggressive batting and less work standing up - cannot be faulted. The fast and skillful Navdeep Saini justifies his place too,

New Zealand could be a different force in Tests. Swing bowlers Trent Boult [if fit] and Tim Southee, battering ram Neil Wagner and the tantalising Colin de Grandhomme can be quite a proposition if the pitches are seamer-friendly.

But then, this Indian team, bolstered by Jasprit Bumrah’s return, can hit back too.

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