The Telegraph
Wednesday , February 5 , 2014
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Another pace test for India

- Dhoni & CO. need to draw series to maintain No. 2 RANKING

Calcutta/Auckland: You might well call it an anomaly, but reality only portrays that New Zealand, as of now, have left India battered and bruised on this tour.

The star-studded Indian line-up was again found wanting in conditions favouring fast bowling, which turned out to be one of the main reasons behind their 0-4 drubbing in the ODIs. With Tests being a completely different format, it might be a little too early to rule India out on the basis of their shoddy performance in the shorter version.

However, there's no denying the fact that the hosts carry the momentum and go into the Test series, the first of which begins on Thursday, at the Eden Park, in a much better frame of mind. Besides, with the Eden Park pitch promising a fair bit of bounce, India have their task cut out of not just restoring pride, but also shedding the 'poor travellers' tag.

In the only practice tie India had prior to the Tests, at Whangarei, it turned out to be a decent outing with the pacers not allowing New Zealand XI batsmen to break free, while Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane got some useful runs under their belt. But India's key to success in the Test series lies in how early the likes of Zaheer Khan, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma dismiss the New Zealand top order.

It will be difficult, no doubt, as Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson and the likes are all in good touch. Jesse Ryder and Peter Fulton would be aiming to make it big as well.

Also, the induction of the talented Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell further strengthens New Zealand's pace attack led by Tim Southee.

It would also be a unique experience for Inderbir Singh Sodhi, better known as Ish Sodhi, as the Ludhiana-born leg-spinner may get to play his first Test against his country of birth.

No wonder it will be a difficult task for Sodhi, considering he has to bowl against batsmen who are known to be the best against spin, at least on paper. So far, Sodhi has been part of five Test matches, picking up 11 wickets, with three for 59 being his best bowling figures as of now.

Meanwhile, to maintain their No. 2 position in the ICC Test Team Rankings, India at least need to draw this series.

A 2-0 series win will fetch India one rating point to take them to 118 points with no change in the table. While a 1-0 result would see India losing five points to end on 112 ratings points, just one ahead of third-ranked Australia, though they would still remain on second position. A 0-0 or 1-1 draw will allow both the teams to maintain their pre-series rankings.

But if New Zealand, who are currently on eighth with 82 points, win the series 2-0 then they will jump to 88 ratings points, while India will fall to 110. New Zealand will leapfrog the West Indies into seventh position if they win the series 1-0.

In fact, the Black Caps can move ahead of Sri Lanka in sixth place, provided they beat India 2-0 and Bangladesh win the second Test against Sri Lanka to draw the series 1-1.

A 1-0 series win for New Zealand will mean it will join West Indies on 87 points but will be ranked in seventh position when the ratings are calculated beyond the decimal point.

Pujara (fifth) and Kohli (11th) have the opportunity to improve their individual Test batsman rankings. For Kohli, it will be his chance to enter the top-10 for the first time in his career.

Ravichandran Ashwin, at seventh spot, starts off the series as the highest-ranked Indian Test bowler.

Match starts: 3.30 am (IST) Thursday