Spin twins: Ravi Ashwin (left) and Ravindra Jadeja at the nets with head coach Rahul Dravid in Kanpur. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The conditions are as different as chalk-and-cheese from the last time India and New Zealand met in a red ball contest five months back in the final of World Test Championship. From the seam and swing contest of the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, it will be back to the familiar spin battle at the historic venue of Green Park in Kanpur.

One does not need much of a cricketing nouss to gauge who will be the favourites and stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane did not make any bones about what to expect in terms of the wickets. ‘‘We are not too sure about the combination. But in India you generally get spin-friendly wickets, the ball generally keeps slightly low and slow. We expect that but not too sure how the wicket will play. We will have to wait till tomorrow and then assess from there,” Rahane said at the pre-match media interaction.

Memories of the 3-1 mauling that England received the last time a Test series was played on Indian soil is still too fresh in everyone’s minds, but Kane Williamson’s men will do well not to get bogged down by the thought - or the weight of history as they have last won a Test in India in 1988-’89. The visitors have won just two of their 34 Tests in India so far: in Nagpur in 1969-70 and in Mumbai in 1988-89.


It was been a rough ride for the Black Caps, who had to play a three-match T20 series barely three days after playing the final of the T20 World Cup in Dubai on November 14 and had barely two full practice sessions with the red ball before the spin test against Ravi Ashwin & co.

The Indian Test side, however, will wear a new look with several of their regulars: captain Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami being rested with KL Rahul now ruled out of the Test series with a muscle strain on left thigh. Rahul’s injury, however, has opened up the doors for middle order batter Shreyas Iyer to make his Test bow. New Zealand, meanwhile, will be missing out on their pace spearhead Trent Boult and allrounder Colin Grandhomme.

Iyer, a middle order batter bred in the Mumbai school of cricket, has honed his skills under Pravin Amre and knows what it takes to survive the rigours of a Test match but the hosts’ batting line-up looks a bit undercooked with Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rahane, Iyer and Wriddhiman Saha. It will be interesting to see if the experienced Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson can strike early blows to make a difference.

“It’s been a while since that final which was a special memory, but we know we’re here against a very strong side and they’re formidable, particularly in their own conditions. I’m sure throughout the series, the spin component will be a definite factor. I’m sure, it’s no different here in Kanpur,’’ said Williamson, arguably their best player against spin.

Catch the match

India vs New Zealand

First Test

Green Park Stadium, Kanpur

Match starts at 8 am UAE