India are coming off a 3-0 ODI defeat to hosts New Zealand and have had their confidence shaken. While the test format is very different, the Indian team will still want to forget the ODIs quickly. The best way for them to do that is to put in a good performance in the tour match.
Tour Match Against NZ XI
India are set to play a warm up game against NZ XI from Feb 14 to Feb 16 in Hamilton. The test side will see an influx of new players who have not been a part of the ODI drubbing. The likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha and Umesh Yadav will bring new energy into the squad and also a wealth of experience.
While this is a good thing, it also means that these players will have very little time to adapt. In the three-day tour game, each side will most likely get the chance to bat just once; unless the bowlers have a very good day.
The biggest test for India will be for its two opening batsmen. Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw opened in all three ODI games and were dismissed cheaply. They will have scars going into the tour game and it is vital they both get a good score. India also have a third opener in Shubman Gill who had a good series in New Zealand with the India A team.
Bowlers Will Need To Find Their Rhythm
One of the reasons India has been able to do well in the test arena in the last couple of years is because their fast bowlers have delivered consistently. For the first time in a long time, the fast bowlers failed in the ODI series and they will need to lift their game if India are going to win the test series.
Jasprit Bumrah who has led the attack for India has not been at his best after his long injury layoff. He has bowled well in patches and has not given away a lot of runs in the ODI series but went wicketless.
Ishant Sharma who has been a regular in the test side will have to pass a fitness test on Feb 15 at the NCA in Bengaluru in order to be considered for selection. He will not play the tour match and is also likely to be omitted from the first test.
India will likely go in with three fast bowlers and one spinner in the first test. Bumrah, Mohd Shami and Yadav are likely to get the nod. Navdeep Saini is the other option and it is likely that he will have a game during the tour match.
R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are the two front-line spinners but most likely only one of them will play the first test. Jadeja has been preferred over Ashwin in recent series but India will have to take a call based on the playing XI for New Zealand in the first test and the number of left handers their have in the side.
Absence Of All-Rounder Will Hurt India
Hardik Pandya has filled in the all-rounder slot for India in recent times and brought balance to the squad. His absence due to injury leaves India without a fast bowling all-rounder. This makes it difficult for Kohli especially in overseas conditions where an extra fast bowler is essential. India have Hanuma Vihari in the squad who can bowl off-spin. India will most likely play his and drop Ashwin provided Vihari puts in a good performance in the tour game.