IND vs NZ 1st Test: Kane Williamson doesn’t rule out playing three spinners

New Zealand skipper says India’s strength in depth make this two-Test series a huge challenge
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson during practice (Reuters/File Photo)
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson during practice (Reuters/File Photo)
Published on Nov 24, 2021 09:32 PM IST
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BySharad Deep, Kanpur

The Black Caps won the first World Test Championship in Southampton in June beating India by eight wickets. Months later, Kane Williamson’s team finished second best to Australia in the T20 World Cup in UAE. And in 2019, they did not win a 50-over World Cup because of a boundary countback rule that has since been scrapped. Underdogs? Call them that at your peril.

Yet if that is what New Zealand are going into the first Test beginning in Kanpur on Thursday it is proof of how difficult it is to play India at home in the game’s longest and most difficult format. And it isn’t just because New Zealand have won only two Tests in India, the last one in 1988, 19 years after the first.  

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With little grass on the surface, the pitch at the Green Park Stadium looks ideal to bat for long. Slow turners of the ball like Ravichandra Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja though could pose problems for the visitors, who will hope to deal with that better than in 2016.

Then, despite Williamson’s and Tom Latham’s half-centuries in the first innings and also some fine batting by Luke Ronchi (80) and Mitchel Santner (71) in the second, the Black Caps lost by 197 runs. Ashwin’s 10-wicket match haul and Jadeja’s five wickets, including four in the first innings, fashioned the emphatic win.  

Williamson chose to give the three-match T20 series against India a miss last week and trained along with other Test specialists in Jaipur. He knows that the two-Test series is going to give his men a tough time even though India are missing five regulars, including skipper Virat Kohli, who will join the side in the next match, in Mumbai from December 3.  

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“It’s not going to be easy against India in India but we are focused on our game plan. Handling the spin attack would be our top priority and we are committed to win the Test to kick off New Zealand’s second campaign of the WTC in style,” said Williamson on Wednesday. 

“I don't think we are favourites here. One of the key strengths of Indian cricket is its depth. India has great knowledge of home conditions; we know the challenge is a big one.”

Williamson did not rule out playing three spinners, like India are expected to. “We have seen in this part of the world, the spin component has been very large and it has played a big role in changing the complexion of the game,” he said.  

Also Read | How to beat Virat Kohli-led Team India in India?

“I am sure throughout the whole series, the spin component will be a factor and it will be no different in Kanpur. It will be all about assessing the conditions as quickly as possible,” said Williamson.

“Someone like Ajaz (Patel) and (Will) Somerville have played a big part in our bowling attack. Particularly in these conditions, they will play an important role for us. There will be some reverse swing; we will try to create ways to get wickets so there will be a role for both seamers and spinners.”

Between them, Patel and Somerville have 41 wickets in 13 Tests. The number for Ashwin and Jadeja combined is 640.

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Monday, November 29, 2021