India look to dominate New Zealand in 1st Test at Kanpur

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Ajinkya Rahane will be India’s captain for the Kanpur Test

A depleted Indian cricket team will still be favourites to dominate proceedings in the opening Test match of the two-match series, to be played at Kanpur from Thursday against New Zealand, with the short series set to be a part of the ICC World Test Championship 2021-2023.

These two teams played in the final of the last ICC World Test Championship 2019-2021 in which New Zealand had beaten India by a heavy margin in a rain-affected contest at Southampton in England. While India will be eyeing a revenge against the New Zealand side, the hosts will be severely depleted for the opening contest at least in the batting department.

India will be without their dependable opening batsman KL Rahul, who is out of the series due to a muscle strain injury on his left thigh and Virat Kohli, the regular captain, has been rested for this game as well. Kohli did not take part in the three-match T20I series which was played in the space of five days from November 17-21 across three different venues.

With Kohli on an extended rest period, India will be captained by Ajinkya Rahane who will be under pressure after a string of failures in England led to the calls of him being sacked from the team crop  up again. Cheteshwar Pujara will also be under pressure since he too did not contribute heavily in England, and has been lacking big runs in the only format he plays for India.  

India have drafted in Suryakumar Yadav in place of Rahul ahead of the opening Test, whereas Shubman Gill is expected to partner with Mayank Agarwal at the top of the innings for India, who have  also rested Rohit Sharma from the series in order to maintain his workload. The right-hand middle order batsmen Shreyas Iyer is also in the mix and can get his debut in the longest format in Kanpur.

In the bowling department, India have the likes of Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Akshar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Siraj and Prasidh Krishna to pick from. With India lacking experience in the batting department, there will be no harm in playing both Ashwin and Jadeja together on a pitch  that can be expected to be spin friendly in Kanpur. 

On the other hand, New Zealand will be expected to play both Will Somerville and Ajaz Patel as their spin bowlers given that they will be without the services of Devon Conway, for whom they have drafted in talented all-rounder Daryl Mitchell. Kane Williamson and Kyle Jamieson will be back in the team after sitting out from the T20 international series whereas the Kiwis will also be without the services of Trent Boult, who has been rested from the series. 

The experienced players in Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, Tim Southee, Mitchell Santner and Tom Latham will be expected to come good for what will be a tough tour for the New Zealand side in alien conditions and situations.   

The second and final Test of the series will be played from December 3-7 at the renowned Wankhede stadium in Mumbai.