Ist Test : Focus on Rahane, Ishant as young Indian team take on NZ in Kanpur

Insight Online News

Kanpur, Nov 24 : For many in Team India, taking a sweat revenge over New Zealand for their loss in the finals of the ICC World Test Championship could be a dream to live on, but for some of them, it is battle royal to keep intact their careers, when both the sides take field at the Green Park Stadium here in the first Test starting Thursday.

Captain Ajinkya Rahane and pacer Ishant Sharma are under tremendous pressure, as both of them have not performed to their potential as a middle order batsman and fast bowler, respectively.

Rahane, as rightly pointed out by former India cricketer Gautam Gambhir, has been fortunate enough to find a place in Team India, in spite of a dismal batting average of 19 in 11 Test matches this season.

The only time he relished his batting was, when he cracked his 12th century in the Border-Gavaskar Test Series Down Under last December in the Melbourne Test, which India won eventually.

Rahane’s ton was an epic as he came in to bat with India reeling at 64 for three. He took his time as the Aussie bowlers were on top, hitting the right areas and keeping things tight. Once he saw off the early storm and settled in, he started picking runs and putting the loose balls away.

Since this gigantic effort, Rahane has not been in scoring terms. Probably he can take a cue from the Melbourne century, where he paced his innings nicely. And, Chesteshwar Pujara, his deputy for the Test match beginning tomorrow, rightly pointed out that the captain should be a bit fearless in his approach.

Rahane has been too protective about his wicket, with most of the time going into the shell, for reasons not far off to fetch, as he is worried about his career, which has been sliding down the hill. He also is pretty aware of Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer, who could nudge him out by putting up consistent performances.

Shreyas, however, got the nod ahead of Suryakumar as he was the original choice of the selectors, and going by the net session, his Mumbai mate had batted deep down in the evening.

Shreyas could be in the scheme of things of Head Coach Rahul Dravid and Rahane to replace Rishabh Pant, who could bring aggression into the game along with wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha, considering Puajra, Rahane and Hanuma Vihari being defensive players.

Mayank Agarwal and Shubnam Gill, at the top, will be looking to grab the opportunity to get a big score to force the selectors to book their tickets for Johannesburg for the South Africa series. If Mayank shines, KL Rahul will be under pressure to consistently put on a good show.

Shubnam, on the other hand, will consider himself to be lucky to open the innings along with Mayank, otherwise there were speculations that he would find himself batting in the middle order, which he has not done of late.

Ishant, a 100-Test veteran, is also on testing ground with the likes of Mohammed Siraj, who is doing his best to cement his place. The Hyderabad-lad has taken 30 wickets in nine Test matches, with a haul of 5 for 73 against Australia being his best bowling figures in an innings, and 8 for 126 against England being the best bowling figures in a match.

But one player who would be itching to prove regular captain Virat Kohli wrong is veteran spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who was not only ignored for white-ball cricket for 4 years, but also was not given a chance to play a single match in the England Test series, despite being picked up in the side. It was not a surprise that former India great Dilip Vengsarkar vehemently criticised the omission of Ashwin despite being the best spinner across formats with more than 600 international wickets to his credit.

No wonder Ashwin’s inclusion in Playing XI will be a treat for the fans as the tweak-master will be eager to take on Captain Kane Williamson, who makes a comeback into the New Zealand Test side after opting out of the three-match T20I series, and seasoned campaigners like Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls.

All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and spinner Axar Patel, would be keen to bowl in tandem, along with Ashwin to pin down the Black Caps. Axar has been brilliant in his debut Test series against England where he picked up 27 wickets.

For New Zealand, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner will form the pace battery and it is for Williamson to decide on the spin combination from the pool of Ajaz Patel, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner and William Somerville.


Ajinkya Rahane (captain), Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj, Jayant Yadav, Srikar Bharat (2nd wk), Prasidh Krishna.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Latham (wk), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Tom Blundell (wk), Will Young, Glenn Phillips (wk), Daryl Mitchell, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Kyle Jamieson, William Sommerville, Ajaz Patel, Mitchell Santner, Rachin Ravindra.


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