NZ to 'test' itself in warm-up fixture against Mumbai

New Zealand faces Mumbai in what is meant to be a warm-up for the visitors ahead of Tests and One-Day Internationals that are likely to offer dry, ready-to-crack spin-assisting pitches. But having been greeted with a grassy surface, the quantum of takeaway for New Zealand remains to be seen.

Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi, members of New Zealand's spin attack for its tour of India.   -  Sandeep Saxena

In what is meant to be a three-day warm up game for New Zealand, it faces a depleted Mumbai side ahead of Tests and One-Day Internationals (ODIs) that are likely to offer dry, ready-to-crack spin-assisting pitches.

Not surprisingly, the Kiwis have been greeted with a “grassy” surface, unlike the customary pitch at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground here, for the match commencing on Friday. It is an ideal three-day pitch. The host is not expected make the visitor prepare any better. Therefore, from this outing, the quantum of takeaway for New Zealand remains to be seen.

> Read: Ross Taylor backs NZ seam attack to come good in India

For Mumbai, the Ranji Trophy champion, it will be nice to get off the blocks earlier than any other team in its preparation for the title-defence on neutral pitches. With New Zealand expected to give opportunity to as many players to bat and bowl in this practice game – it is not a first-class match – it will be good for Mumbai, too, to test its bench-strength for the domestic season ahead.

When New Zealand last toured India in 2012 and lost both matches of the Test series, there was no practice game in the schedule. This time, the Kiwis would surely like to use the match to let their batsmen face the Mumbai spinners considering the role the turning ball is likely to play in the series.

The only addition to the New Zealand squad that recently toured South Africa is all-rounder James Neesham, who is returning from a back-injury. The visiting team will be keen to see how Neesham will perform over the next three days.

Though the dangerous Corey Anderson is not part of the squad, the batting still looks formidable with skipper Kane Williamson leading the way. Martin Guptill’s form could be a source of worry for the Kiwis but the seasoned Ross Taylor is expected to be a decisive factor in this series.

Better prepared

With Neesham and Doug Bracewell providing the options for fast bowling all-rounders, not to forget the duo of new-ball duo of Trent Boult and Tim Southee along with the three spinners Mark Craig, Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi, New Zealand looks better prepared in the bowling department than the previous visit.

From Mumbai’s perspective, the return of Rohit Sharma to sharpen his batting skills for the season ahead is a good boost considering that Ajinkya Rahane has not been included and four players – Shreyas Iyer, Akhil Herwadkar, Dhawal Kulkarni and Shardul Thakur – are on duty for India ‘A’ in Australia.

Not many would remember that a full-strength Mumbai, in 1997-98, had inflicted a 10-wicket defeat on Australia in a three-day practice game. Unlike that team that had Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, Sanjay Manjrekar and Amol Muzumdar, the present squad is grossly depleted.

Under skipper Adiya Tare, the team has a few exciting batting prospects like Surya Kumar Yadav, young Siddhesh Lad but overall, its bowling lacks experience. In the absence of the regulars, Mumbai has fielded a few untested youngsters who stand to gain much. The team's average age is around 24 with Armaan Jaffer being the youngest at 17 and the trio of Rohit, Vishal Dabholkar and Balwinder Sandhu at 29!

In other words, the New Zealand batsmen can only look for limited satisfaction from the outing, both in terms of the quality of opposition and the pitch on offer.

The teams:

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Martin Guptill, James Neesham, Luke Ronchi, Ross Taylor, B. J. Watling, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult, Mark Craig, Doug Bracewell, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner.

Mumbai: Aditya Tare (captain), Rohit Sharma, Surya Kumar Yadav, Jay Bista, Siddhesh Lad, Arman Jaffer, Kaustabh Pawar, Vishal Dabolkar, Vijay Gohil, Parikshit Valsangkar, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Roystan Dias, Tushar Deshpande, Harshal Soni and Sufian Sheikh.