Christchurch Test: Jolted India gears up to face relentless New Zealand

Having lost the opening Test just over three days, India awaits yet another test against a relentless New Zealand side on a green top in the second Test.

India skipper Virat Kohli bats during a nets session ahead of the second Test against New Zealand.   -  AP

The Hagley Oval is flanked by lush green gardens that mirror the city’s serene and pleasant ambience.

However, things will not be remotely as peaceful for the Indians on a grass-laden surface as they strive to square the series in the second Test beginning Saturday.

Also at stake would be 60 points of the World Test championship. It’s a big game for both sides.

Ishant ruled out

The Test has not begun and India has already been hit by an injury blow. Ishant Sharma’s ankle injury - he had picked it up during the domestic Ranji season - has flared up again and the lanky paceman will miss the second Test.

The lanky Ishant was, by far, the best Indian bowler in the first Test and returned a five-wicket innings haul. Umesh Yadav, sharp but not as tall as Ishant, is expected to come in. 

While Ishant relies on bounce and an off-stump line, Umesh, a handful with his pace, does damage with reverse swing. Umesh pitches the ball up and can bowl outswingers with the new ball.

The Indian batsmen will have to approach the Test with a fresh mindset. At Wellington, they appeared under a siege mentally.

They were neither convincing in defence as the ball seamed around nor were they able to pierce the infield. Simply put, the Indian batsmen could not take the challenge to the Kiwi pacemen.

In fact, apart from Mayank Agarwal’s second innings half-century, none was able to find the balance between aggression and defence.

The Kiwis comprehend the green, seaming track here and the conditions well. In the Test against Sri Lanka, here, in 2018, New Zealand won by a whopping 423 runs. Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner were red hot. 

And that was a Test, where New Zealand, inserted by Sri Lanka. was dismissed for 178 in its first innings. So the toss alone does not determine outcomes in these parts.

A team has to play good cricket, adapt to the conditions. The batsmen, including the young Prithvi Shaw, have to wait for the ball to come to them and play the sphere late.

The Indian batting could be under greater scrutiny in the Test with the Kiwis likely to play four specialist seamers plus Colin de Grandhoome’s teasing swing.

Cheteshwar Pujara rides an electric scooter after a training session.   -  AP

 

Kohli & Co. will have to face off with left-arm Wagner, who employs short-pitched bowling with telling effect, both the over and round the wicket, often from wide of the crease.

Before Wagner enters the picture, the Indian batsmen will have to cope with the left-right swing bowling of Boult and Southee. Then there is the off-stump line and bounce of Kyle Jamieson.

 

Jasprit Bumrah's dip in form has further dented India's cause.   -  AP

On a seaming track, firm pushes in the `V’ rather than big drives are more productive. If the length is short, the cut and the pull can fetch runs. It does help if the back-swing is straight.

The Indian batsmen have to play and leave, know where their off-stump is. They also need to display footwork, balance in the stance [the batsman shouldn’t fall over], and a still head. It’s important that the batsman covers for the movement.

Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami did not bowl the right length in Wellington. Both should pitch the ball up for it to swing. And land on a good length for the sphere to seam around.

The Indians have a fight on their hands on what could be seam-trap. 

The teams:

India (from): Virat Kohli (captain), Mayank Agarwal, Prithivi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), R. Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, R. Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Navdeep Saini, Shubhman Gill.

New Zealand (from): Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Latham, Tony Blundell, Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor, Colin de Grandhomme, B.J. Watling (keeper), Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Ajaz Patel, Daryl Mitchell.

Umpires: Richard Kettleborough, Michael Gough; TV Umpire: Aleem Dar; Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle.

The match begins at 4 am IST.

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