The two formats so far in India’s tour of New Zealand have turned out to be a damp squib. The Men in Blue won the T20I series comprehensively by a margin of 5-0 while the Kiwis swept India away in the ODI series by 3-0. The two sides have endured vastly contrasting fortunes in limited-overs cricket and hence it turned out as one-sided in both the versions.
And, as India prepare themselves for the two-Test series starting at the Basin Reserve in Wellington from the 21st of February, they have a few questions unanswered.
The Black Caps would be riding high on confidence after handing the visitors a drubbing in 50-over games. But India, as the number one Test team, can’t be taken lightly either. And with these Tests forming a part of the ICC Test Championship, Virat Kohli’s men wouldn’t be let the hosts off the hook easily.
We take a look at three questions lingering around as the first of the two Tests approaches.
India will also play a three-day practise match starting in Hamilton from the 14th of February.
Opening partner for Mayank Agarwal:
In the absence of Rohit Sharma, one of the opening spots is up for grabs. While Mayank Agarwal is a given due to his prolific run of form over nine Tests, there is a close competition between Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill.
Shaw grabbed everyone’s attention courtesy his century in his first-ever Test match in 2018.
Shaw has produced the spark and promise ever since, especially in the three-match ODI series preceding this.
However, the youngster lacks the temperament to bide his time in the middle play a big inning.
On the contrary, Gill warmed the bench in the three-Test series against South Africa.
But the 20-year old has got a compelling record in 20 first-class games. Gill averages a mammoth 71.32, amassing six centuries with a high score of 268 in his short career.
He can play a long inning by tiring the bowlers and possesses the free-flowing style through his ability to pick gaps in the outfield with ease.
Gill’s scores of 83, 204, and 136 against New Zealand A at the Hagley Oval and Bert Sutcliffe Oval further presses his selection case.
Six bowlers or one extra batsman?
And while the opening combination remains uncertain, the tourists have another major issue to sort out which is whether to play an extra batsman or a bowler.
The bowling combination is likely to consist of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Ravindra Jadeja.
While this is a deadly bowling combination along with Jadeja, who is more than a handy option with the bat.
However, the Kiwis are no mug in any department. The lifeless decks in New Zealand could provoke Virat Kohli to pick an extra bowler.
On the other hand, the penetration of the New Zealand bowlers might convince him to stick with the seven-batsmen combination.
Who would keep wickets?
The issue about who would stand behind the stumps may not be a burning one; however, at the same time is also significant. While Wriddhiman Saha’s ability as the wicketkeeper cannot be doubted at all, Rishabh Pant’s skill with the bat cannot be discounted.
Saha’s keeping with the pink ball against Bangladesh was particularly impressive and the breeze in New Zealand means that the veteran’s presence would be crucial.
On the other hand, Pant may not be as polished as his colleague behind the stumps, his performances with the bat overseas holds the edge over the Bengal wicketkeeper.
However, with India possessing plenty of specialist and competent batsmen, Saha’s is likely to get preference.