Bangalore: Ahead of the start of the two-Test series between India and New Zealand, the script did not promise any twists or turns, neither did it declare that it will give us some dramatic moments.
Well, as expected, it did turn out to be a one-sided contest in the first Test with India handsomely beating the Black Caps. And it is highly unlikely that the script will change in the second Test unless the visitors show some drastic improvement.
For New Zealand, the Test series is not yet lost, and they can reflect on the mistakes they committed in the first Test. Their bowlers were rendered helpless by Cheteshwar Pujara while the batsmen were made to look hapless by an attack which seems to be confident that the wounds they have inflicted on the opposition will cause long-lasting scars.
Such has been India’s dominance in the first Test that it has helped them overcome the bitter memories of previous season, when they suffered thrashing defeats at the hands of England and Australia. A 2-0 whitewash will surely make things sweeter for the home side.
India will again rely solely on the guile of their spinners to help them to a clean sweep.
New Zealand were bowled out twice in the Hyderabad Test. And out of those 20 wickets, they lost 18 to the spinners — Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha. The statistics show that the batsmen suffered against spin, getting bamboozled by the duo.
Ashwin finished with a match haul of 12 wickets, while Ojha grabbed six, indicating that they are ready for the long haul to face the England and the Australian teams in the sub-continent later in the season.
And while the two teams face each other at the Chinnaswamy Stadium from Friday, the visitors will again face a tough challenge to counter the opponent’s spin attack, especially on a pitch that will remain dry.
Though the curator Narayan Raju reiterated numerous times that he will prepare a sporting wicket with a fair sprinkling of grass, be rest assured that the groundsmen will remove the grass.
No wonder then that New Zealand’s problems will compound when they play on such a surface. They need to play out of their skins and prepare for long hauls if they want to salvage some pride, let alone level the series.
The travails of New Zealand’s batsmen had not been experienced by their Indian counterparts. The batting seemed to have coped pretty well even after the retirement of the two stalwarts, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.
Though the openers, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, failed to capitalise on their starts, a mature 159 from Cheteshwar Pujara put doubts to rest about who should replace Dravid at the No. 3 position.
Pujara’s calmness at the wicket, compounded with reserves of concentration, will hold him in good stead in the future, especially when the hosts have upcoming home series against England and Australia.
Although Sachin Tendulkar and Suresh Raina failed to pull their weight through, Virat Kohli’s potent form, compounded by Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s return among runs, could spell nightmare for the visitors.
Talking about team composition, India are likely to stick to the winning combination while New Zealand are likely to bring in spinner Tarun Nethula in place of a pacer.
New Zealand’s challenge will be to control the pace of the game. Their inexperienced bowling attack needs to slow India down at the start in order to allow Ross Taylor to keep wicket-taking fields while their batsmen need to find a way not to stagnate against Ashwin and the rest in high-pressure scenarios like they did on the last session of the first Test.
In Bangalore, going by the weather forecasts, interruptions could hamper the day’s play. But given the dry nature of the pitch, any other result other than an Indian victory looks highly unlikely.
India (likely): Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Umesh Yadav.
New Zealand (likely): Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Daniel Flynn, James Franklin, Kruger van Wyk, Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee, Tarun Nethula, Chris Martin.
Umpires: Ian Gould, Steve Davis
TV: Sudhir Asnani
Match Referee: Chris Broad
Match starts: 9.30am
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