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Ishant Sharma, Prithvi Shaw on course for berths in the first Test against New Zealand

Kohli indicates that Ishant and Shaw will be playing for the first Test against New Zealand
Ishant Sharma
Ishant Sharma
File picture

TT Bureau & Agencies   |   Calcutta   |   Published 19.02.20, 09:26 PM

India captain Virat Kohli on Wednesday dropped enough hints to indicate that pacer Ishant Sharma and young opener Prithvi Shaw will be in the playing XI for the first Test against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve in Wellington.

If India’s net session on Wednesday is any indication, Wriddhiman Saha will be in the starting XI as the wicketkeeper ahead of Rishabh Pant for the series opener from Friday.


Hanuma Vihari, the designated No. 6 batsman for away Tests, will be the fifth bowling option with the specialist pacers: Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant.

Ravichandran Ashwin is in the mix for the lone specialist spinner’s spot though Ravindra Jadeja’s all-round skills can’t be ignored either.

Ishant, who was out for three weeks with ankle injury sustained during a Ranji Trophy game at the Kotla, bowled full tilt at the nets and even earned appreciation for troubling batsmen with his pace and bounce.

“He (Ishant) looked pretty normal and pretty similar to what he was bowling before the ankle injury. He is hitting good areas again and has played (Test cricket) in New Zealand couple of times, so his experience will be useful to us,” Kohli said.

The India captain also said in as many words that the team wouldn’t like to change Shaw’s natural stroke-play which was a good enough hint that Shubman Gill will have to warm the benches for now.

“Prithvi is a talented player and he has his own game and we want him to follow his instincts and play the way he does.” The skipper wants Shaw to take a leaf out of Mayank Agarwal’s performance in Australia in 2018-19 when he hit back-to-back half-centuries in Melbourne and Sydney.

“They don’t have any nerves and can do well overseas. Like a clear head with which Mayank played in Australia, Prithvi can do the same in New Zealand. A bunch of guys playing with fearlessness, something that can motivate the whole team, gives us start that the team wants and not get intimidated by the opposition in any way,” Kohli said.

The Delhi wicketkeeper had precious little to do at the main nets and was seen spending more time doing his keeping drills. Pant only got an opportunity to bat when the first team completed its routines.

New Zealand are likely to go with an all-pace attack but Kohli wants to stick to his team’s strengths which is play with one spinner in the four-pronged bowling attack.

“If it had been a Johannesburg pitch, I could have said it’s a possibility (to play four pacers) but our team has that skill that we can bowl out other teams with only three fast bowlers,” he said confidently. “But you need one world class skilful spinner, who can take wickets on any pitch.”

Henry in as cover

New Zealand on Wednesday called in pacer Matt Henry for the first Test as cover for Neil Wagner, who is awaiting the birth of his first child.

Wagner is among New Zealand’s senior pacers alongside Trent Boult and Tim Southee. The left-arm fast bowler has an impressive record in Tests, having taken 204 wickets in 47 games at an average of 26.63. 

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