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Williamson to Ashwin: Players To Watch Out In The India – New Zealand First Test

After a gruelling spell of T20 matches, both India and New Zealand are set to clash in a two-match Test series. The World Test Championship finalists will be keen to get ahead in the race for the next WTC title, with India yearning for revenge on the Kiwis for their defeat in the final. This will be the first Test match for India under coach Rahul Dravid, who made a stellar debut for India with a dominating 3-0 whitewash in the T20 series held earlier this month.

As India and New Zealand clash in the longest format of the game, we take a look at key players to look out for in the series:

 

KANE WILLIAMSON

Kane Williamson has led the transformation of New Zealand from perennial underdogs to one of the best teams across formats in recent years. The Kiwis skipper has earned praise for his cool demeanour on the field, leading his team from the front against all odds. Against a much tougher opposition like India, who are unbeatable on Subcontinental pitches, his captaincy and approach to the game will become crucial for New Zealand’s chances.

Williamson has not only led the Kiwis on the field, but also with the bat. He has climbed past the likes of Steve Smith and Virat Kohli in the batsmen rankings to occupy the second position, just behind Joe Root, with his stellar performances. He boasts an average of 53.96 in red-ball cricket, one of the highest in the world. His last Test century came against Pakistan earlier this year when the Kiwis skipper scored a whopping 238 runs to lead New Zealand to victory.

 

ROSS TAYLOR

Ross Taylor’s batting adaptability and consistency have been key to New Zealand’s rise, especially in Test cricket. His contribution was crucial in the World Test Championship final when he stitched together a partnership along with Kane Williamson to deliver the victory for New Zealand. Taylor will have to face the might of Indian spinners in the series, who have made a regular habit of piercing through middle-orders in recent years.

The veteran batsman hasn’t played a match since June, as the 37-year-old Test specialist was kept out of the T20 World Cup. With the Kiwis skipper the only other experienced batsman in the squad, New Zealand will look to Ross Taylor to navigate the dangers of spin bowling.

 

RAVICHANDRAN ASHWIN

The last time New Zealand toured India to take part in a one-off Test match in 2016, Ravichandran Ashwin took a whopping 10 wickets to decimate the Kiwis. Arguably India’s best spinner, Ashwin thrives in Indian conditions. The veteran bowler has taken 413 wickets in the longest format of the game from 79 matches, just 21 shy of the legendary Kapil Dev. With India likely to make spin-friendly pitches, Ashwin will have plenty of opportunities to pick up scalps throughout the course of the match.

Ashwin also has a rare opportunity to pick up another 10-fer to equal Anil Kumble’s record of 8 10-fers in Test cricket. With a batting lineup that is not familiar with Indian pitches, Ashwin will focus on decimating the opposition by picking up the key wickets of Kane Williamson and Ravindra Jadeja.

 

CHETESHWAR PUJARA

The recent performances of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have brought their contributions to the team into question. While the veteran Test batsman has proved his utility time and again under difficult conditions, his style stands in stark contrast to the aggressiveness displayed by the rest of the team under Virat Kohli. But the selectors and team management have decided to retain the Test specialist, as India have a clear void to fill in the No.3 spot in his absence.

With Virat Kohli missing the first Test and KL Rahul out injured, it will fall to Pujara to provide an anchoring role to the team’s innings. On the high scoring Indian pitches, the team that can bat longer usually wins the game, and Pujara’s role in navigating the spells of Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson will be critical to India’s innings.

 

SHREYAS IYER

Shreyas Iyer will be making his Test debut on Thursday after a long wait. Iyer was picked over Indian Test specialist Hanuma Vihari, increasing the pressure on the debutant to perform well in his inaugural Test. Iyer’s performance as a middle-order batsman in first-class cricket has been stellar – he has scored 4592 runs at an average of 52.18. His ability to bully bowlers on Indian pitches is the likely reason he made it to the team after a long gap of three years from first-class cricket. Rahul Dravid has closely watched Shreyas Iyer since his stint at Team Delhi in the Indian T20 League and has given the first possible opportunity to the youngster reflecting his belief in Iyer’s talents.

With veterans Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul missing the game, it will fall to the likes of Shubhman Gill, Mayank Agarwal and Shreyas Iyer to take India’s innings ahead alongside Pujara.

 

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