India spinners have dominated New Zealand in both the Test meetings at the Green Park in Kanpur.
In the first encounter on a slow surface in 1976, a century by opener and skipper Glenn Turner in the first innings could not prevent the Kiwis from struggling against the spin trio of Bishan Singh Bedi, BS Chandrasekhar and S Venkataraghavan, who shared six wickets.
In the second innings too, they kept the New Zealanders mesmerised with the old ball before tail-enders WK Lees and D O’Sullivan managed to draw the game.
Things didn’t change much when New Zealand visited the industrial town in 1999 under Stephen Fleming.
Led by Anil Kumble (10 wickets), the spinners ensured an emphatic eight-wicket win within four days. Harbhajan Singh’s four and Sunil Joshi’s two wickets too made a difference.
A change in fortune looks difficult as Virat Kohli and Co will again use spin against the visitors when the first Test starts on September 22.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, along with Ravindra Jadeja and leg-spinner Amit Mishra, will be there to terrorise the Kiwis.
In the last home series in 2012, Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha had shared 31 wickets. India won the two-match series 2-0 and Ashwin emerged the top performer.
“A spinning track in the series opener will give India the perfect start and the Kiwi batsmen will have to apply themselves to stay at the wicket as it is going to be a slow turner again,” Green Park curator Shiv Kumar told HT on Wednesday.
He, however, denied that the team management had asked him to prepare a turner.
“I am preparing a wicket which will have ample opportunity for batsmen and spinners,” he said.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson has already expressed apprehension over getting spinning tracks during the series. “The pitches here have been quite tricky and it’s going to be challenging for our batsmen,” he said on arrival on Tuesday.
Coach Mike Hesson, however, was confident of challenging the Indians with an equally good set of spinners.
“Our spinners did well during the recent series against Zimbabwe and had 14 wickets in three innings there,” he said, adding, “The wickets were slow but I feel our experience of handling such a situation would be the key to our success.”
After winning the four-match Test series against West Indies 2-0, Kohli and Co are No 2 in the ICC Test rankings.
Starting the series with a win will help them get closer to the top spot.
India have won seven out of the eight series at home in the last six years, and their only loss was against England in 2012-13. New Zealand have won just two Tests, losing 13 in 31 Tests on Indian pitches.
After Kanpur, the other two Tests are in Kolkata and Indore.