Kane Williamson insists New Zealand will not be a favorite when they start defending their world title against a understaffed Indian side in Kanpur on Thursday.
The Black Caps beat India with eight wickets in the first test world championship at the Ageas Bowl in June, so India is looking for revenge in the two-game series on home soil.
Virat Kohli has been rested for the first test, so Ajinkya Rahane will lead a team that does not include Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Rishabh Pant.
Rohit, Bumrah, Shami and Pant have been sidelined from both games while Rahul is out with a hamstring strain.
However, India has a lot of power in depth, and you have to look back 33 years when they last lost a home game against the Black Caps in the longest format.
New Zealand captain Williamson exposed India’s 3-0 T20I tourist deception so soon after his team beat Australia in the T20 World Cup final in Dubai.
The prolific batsman knows the Black Caps are facing a major challenge, especially without the opportunity to play warm-up games.
He said: “I don’t think we’re favorites. One of the main strengths of Indian cricket is its depth. India knows its own conditions very well, we know the challenge is big.”
Williamson added, “As we’ve seen in this part of the world, the spin component was very big and played a huge role in changing the complexion of the game.
“I’m sure the spin component will play a role throughout the series and Kanpur will be no different.
Opportunity knocks for Iyer
Shreyas Iyer will make his debut after Rahul is expelled and will come to the middle order, with Shubman Gill opening with Mayank Agarwal.
The 26-year-old right-handed player averages 52.18 in top-tier cricket, scores 12 centuries, and has a hit rate of 81.54.
Hinting that India could play three spinners, Rahane said: “We’re not entirely sure of the combination. But India generally gives spin-friendly wickets, the ball generally stays a little low and slow.
“We expect it, but we are not sure how the wicket will play. We have to wait until tomorrow and judge from there.”
Refreshed Jamieson joins the half century
Kyle Jamieson along with Williamson missed the T20I series as the Black Caps got through their workload.
The Paceman got off to a great start to his testing career and was the man of the game when New Zealand beat India in the final in Southampton, with match numbers 7-61.
Four wickets less than 50 in the longest format, it would be a surprise if Jamieson doesn’t make a direct return to the team, especially if Trent Boult isn’t on the series.
New Zealand, unbeaten in nine Tests and never going 10 without loss, will have to decide who will replace Devon Conway (broken hand) at the top of the order, with Will Young looking like he’s getting the nod.