No. 1 rank beckons India at Eden Gardens

A victory against New Zealand in its 250th home Test at the Eden Gardens will take India atop the Test rankings.

India New Zealand Test

In the second Test at Eden Gardens, India will hope to continue its dominance over New Zealand in the series.   -  V. V. Krishnan

The much-awaited Durga Puja is around the corner and the City of Joy is in festive mood. A dose of cricket, in the form of the second Test between India and New Zealand starting at the Eden Gardens on Friday, is the icing on the cake.

However, it is serious business for Virat Kohli & Co. There is hardly any scope for complacency for India, especially after its big margin win over New Zealand in its 500th Test and series opener.

Immediately after securing a 1-0 lead, Kohli, having noticed the intent and hard work of the opposition, underlined the possibility of the series getting more competitive.

READ: >Kohli: 'We look forward to DRS introduction in future'

READ: >Kohli doesn't rule out Gambhir at Eden

The Kiwis held their head high in the defeat. They displayed determination and application on a turning track in Kanpur, where visiting sides have often bitten the dust.

The biggest takeaway for New Zealand is the performance of its promising all-rounder Mitchell Santner. During the World T20, he had shown his capability to adapt to the Indian conditions well. Backed by his grit, courage and self-belief, he switched nicely to the longer format.

READ: >Williamson hit by bug ahead of second Test

Through a tight schedule in hot and humid conditions, timely recovery of its players will hold the key for New Zealand. Captain Kane Williamson was unwell and missed the practice session on Thursday. It will be a big jolt to the Black Caps if he does not recover in time.

Off-spinner Mark Craig, who was ruled out with a side strain, has made way for Jeetan Patel.

Trent Boult was good on a spinner-friendly track and young leg-spinner Ish Sodhi also impressed with his disciplined bowling. Williamson, Tom Latham, Luke Ronchi and Santner gained a lot of confidence by applying themselves on the dusty Green Park pitch. It should inspire their fellow batsmen to put up a better show.

India will have to take a look at its strategy of fielding four bowlers. Whenever the Kiwi batsmen looked defiant, the deadly spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja seemed clueless. If Kohli opts to go with five bowlers, then leg-spinner Amit Mishra may add teeth to the attack. The inclusion of off-spinner Jayant Yadav provides more options.

On an abrasive pitch, the home pacers used the older ball well and Mohammad Shami stood out with his reverse swing wizardry.

Kohli has to choose between Shikhar Dhawan and his Delhi team-mate Gautam Gambhir to open the innings with Murali Vijay. Gambhir returns to the Indian side after two years to replace an injured K. L. Rahul.

Vijay was a class act and Pujara was fabulous in the first match. They would like to continue their good work. The timely contributions of Ashwin and Jadeja with the bat should be comforting the host. Kohli, who fell to loose shots in both innings, will be keen to make amends and play a bigger knock.

There will be a big question mark over Rohit Sharma, though. He has allowed critics to suspect his temperament in Test cricket and will be lucky to keep his place in the playing XI.

India will be eager to make another landmark Test, its 250th home match, memorable by sealing the series here.

The Eden Gardens, hosting a Test after three years and New Zealand after 51 years, has staged many an Indian win with the spinners dictating terms. As a player, Anil Kumble was part of several of them. Now, as the head coach, he would wish India carried on its luck with the iconic ground presenting a brand new pitch.

Only the rain forecast poses a threat to the Indian ambition.