A captain battling an existential crisis, a veteran pacer about to be phased out and a white-ball maverick trying to earn his red-ball stripes make for a heady combination as Ajinkya Rahane‘s second-string India aim to size up a gritty New Zealand in the first Test starting Thursday.
Rahane, with his career on line, gets to lead India may be one last time while 100-Test veteran Ishant Sharma will be praying that young turk Mohammed Siraj doesn’t nudge him out.
Whoever gets into playing XI, Suryakumar Yadav or Shreyas Iyer, there aim will be to reaffirm ‘Bombay (not Mumbai) School of Batsmanship’ whose philosophy transcends beyond the white-ball riches of Indian Premier League.
It is indeed a rarity to find an Indian Test team that is without its hit opening pair of Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul. Also missing from line-up is skipper Virat Kohli and a genuine match-winning keeper-batter Rishabh Pant.
But this also gives head coach Rahul Dravid a chance to check out what his back-up bench strength is before the away tour of South Africa which starts in less than a month’s time.
If Agarwal does well, that will keep KL Rahul on his toes and a good show from Shubman Gill will keep the team management interested in slotting him in the middle-order when the two regular openers come back.
Hoping to appear in only his third Test abroad, New Zealand pacer Kyle Jamieson is aware that the challenge of playing Test cricket in India will be different from what it is back home, his enviable record notwithstanding.
India and New Zealand will clash in a two-match Test series with the first game starting here from Thursday.
Jamieson, who has made a record-breaking start to Test cricket, with 46 wickets in just eight appearances, is undertaking his first tour of the country with the national team.
“I haven’t played a whole lot of cricket over here. I had the first half of the IPL which was good, but this will be different again,” Jamieson said.
“I’ve got Wags (Neil Wagner) and Timmy (Tim Southee) here, so that’ll be good to bounce ideas off them, to get their expertise on how to bowl here.
“It’s certainly going to be a different challenge to what we get back home but really looking forward to it,” the tall pacer added.