Coach Anil Kumble’s guidance will be the game changer for Virat Kohli and Co when they take on New Zealand in the opening Test at the Green Park in Kanpur from Thursday. The former leg-spinner has 21 wickets from three Tests at this venue.
Kumble’s haul, including 10 wickets against New Zealand in 1999, will be the biggest inspiration for India who are aiming for a winning start as they play 13 Tests at home. Kumble had five wickets against South Africa in 1996 and six wickets against the same side in 2004 at his favourite hunting ground.
One of the best spinners of all time with 619 Test wickets, Kumble, who will be here after almost 12 years, would have already given tips to the spin trio of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra on the slow Green Park strip, which is hosting a Test after almost seven years.
Former skipper Sourav Ganguly, who played a key role in Kumble’s appointment as India coach, would know how his tips will benefit the India spinners in Kanpur. “I am keen to see the outlook of coach Anil Kumble on what he does in Indian conditions. Does he play on rank turners where the ball begins to turn or gets back to old ways where we played on good pitches, where results came on Day 4 or 5, which will be the key for their performance against the bigger teams,” Ganguly was quoted as saying.
Besides working on the spinners, the biggest responsibility on Kumble will be to inspire opener Shikhar Dhawan and middle-order batsman Rohit Sharma, who have been below par for the last 12 months.
The two have retained their spots in the 15-man squad, but have to come good. Cheteshwar Pujara has shown consistency, hitting 166 and 256 in the Duleep Trophy, and his presence would add pressure on Rohit.
Ganguly has backed Pujara ahead of Rohit. “Pujara is a better batsman in Tests. His record in India is also very good,” he had said. On Rohit, his views are clear. “His (Rohit’s) talent hasn’t materialised in Tests, especially overseas in seaming conditions. I think he has got enough of a long rope.”
“Batting isn’t the big issue for Indians in home conditions, and a win here would be the ideal start for Kohli ahead of a gruelling season,” former selector and Test off-spinner Gopal Sharma told HT on Friday.