Kohli’s In­dia eye NZ scalp in 500th Test

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

SACHIN TEN­DULKAR and Kapil Dev will be among the icons cel­e­brat­ing In­dia’s 500th Test in Kan­pur this week as Vi­rat Kohli’s (pix) team begin their quest to re­gain the top spot in the world rank­ings against a dan­ger­ous New Zealand.

The match marks both the start of a three-Test se­ries against the Black Caps and a packed pro­gramme of in­ter­na­tional cricket for In­dia, who will also host Eng­land, Bangladesh and Aus­tralia later this sea­son.

In­dia are strong favourites af­ter their re­cent 2-0 vic­tory over the West Indies in a four-match away se­ries, which saw Kohli lead from the front by scor­ing his first Test double cen­tury in An­tigua.

But their suc­cess was tinged with dis­ap­point­ment as they man­aged to top­ple Aus­tralia at the top of the rank­ings, only to be leapfrogged by their arch-ri­vals Pak­istan when rain wrecked their hopes of a clean sweep in the Caribbean.

In­dia start the se­ries just one point be­hind Pak­istan, and they will be hope­ful of re­turn­ing to No. 1 be­fore Pak­istan play three Tests against the West Indies in October and Novem­ber.

In­spired by Kohli, In­dia’s top or­der has been in fine form of late – with the new­comer Lokesh Rahul scor­ing three cen­turies in the last eight Tests.

But they can’t af­ford to be com­pla­cent af­ter their stun­ning de­feat by New Zealand at the start of the World Twenty20 in March.

Their last Test se­ries with New Zealand ended in a 1-0 away de­feat in 2014, a con­test which saw the then Black Caps’ skip­per Bren­don McCul­lum score a triple cen­tury.

Al­though McCul­lum has since re­tired, his suc­ces­sor Kane Wil­liamson is now es­tab­lished as one of the game’s finest bats­men and he has al­ready found form in In­dia, hit­ting a bel­liger­ent half­cen­tury in a warm-up last week.

Dev, who skip­pered In­dia to vic­tory in the 1983 World Cup, warned that a New Zealand side packed with vet­er­ans of the Indian Pre­mier League (IPL) T20 tour­na­ment should not be un­der­es­ti­mated.

“In­dia will have the home ad­van­tage but times have changed, teams and play­ers are no longer alien to foreign con­di­tions,” he told the NDTV net­work.

The leg­endary all-rounder, still the only player to have scored 4,000 runs and taken 400 wick­ets, said Test cricket had changed rad­i­cally in the two decades since he re­tired, prais­ing Kohli for his at­tack­ing bats­man­ship.

“The mind­set of the young crick­eter is dif­fer­ent,” said Dev. “Ag­gres­sion wasn’t part of Indian team in the 80s, but to­day I think, God these boys have changed.”

The se­ries also marks Anil Kum­ble’s first home as­sign­ment as coach and he is ex­pected to pack the Indian bowl­ing line-up with three spin­ners, in­clud­ing Ravichan­dran Ash­win who took 17 wick­ets in the Caribbean.

The hosts will also be bol­stered by the re­turn on home soil of medium-pacer Mo­hammed Shami, who took 11 wick­ets in the West Indies af­ter a long lay­off.

Wil­liamson, who has so far skip­pered New Zealand in just four Tests, said he was ex­cited by tak­ing on such a tough as­sign­ment in the early days of his cap­taincy. – AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.