So finally, the tests are here after a seemingly long and entertaining ODI and T20 series. The Indians will obviously be the favourites to win the series, especially after their exceptional performance in the ODI series.
But don't underestimate the Kiwis. They quite easily beat the T20 champions in the that format and thrashed them in the last one dayer. Daniel Vettori's boys will surely be sky high after that win.
Their squad for the first test is almost a complete makeover. In the squad of 14, six players will be playing India for the first time. This could be a worrying factor for India as they have never played these guys before.
They already had a tough time with Jesse Ryder and Martin Guptill. If they have more of that then it will be a challenge for Dhoni's devils.
The Indian squad has also had a number of changes made. Let's have a quick summary and glance at the 16-man squad.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni(captain)
MS Dhoni is going to have to be an integral player for the team. Playing down the order makes it even more difficult. India's horrendous last series here saw the number seven batsman coming out very quickly.
Dhoni is going to have to be prepared for that and look to guide his team out of trouble at that time.
Keeping would also be a little hard to adjust with. The red ball will swing a lot and bowlers like Ishant Sharma, who could easily clock 150km/h, will give Dhoni a tough time and he is going to adjust with that and fast.
The Wall is back and how! Scoring a hundred in his last test ad a century in the practice match he played for Canterbury. Rahul Dravid has shown that he means business and the Kiwis are going to have to be careful of his form.
Getting him early is going to be the key. If they don't, the rest will be history.
The main spinner for India. After Jumbo's retirement, Harbhajan has took the task of filling Anil Kumble's huge boots. He had a very good series against England at home but conditions in New Zealand are completely different.
But he has proved to be a tough nut to crack for the batsman and has been exceptional in the one day series. A lot depends on this man. Let's see if he lives up to it—he should.
Another important bowler. Zaheer will be spearheading the attack, and opening the bowling with Ishant Sharma or Lakshmipathy Balaji. He had a modest one day series picking up four wickets in five matches (you might say that is not impressive, but the highest wicket-taker picked five wickets) but at a high average of 46.
In almost matches, he started off his spell very well but started falling apart later into it and he also had a problem clearing up the tail quickly. Surely he will work on these aspects in the nets. Lets see if his work pays off.
Vengipurrapu Venkatsai Laxman is one of the last remaining of the Fab Five, which is now the Tremendous Three(okay?). He has a lot to prove after failing to perform in the England series. He is tipped to be the next one to retire, but we all know how good he is when under pressure.
Also, he has an amazing record in Australia and if I am not mistaken, New Zealand pitches are similar, so expect to see something Very Very Special.
Munaf Patel was really useless in the ODI series. As they arrived in New Zealand, he suffered an injury. The one match he played, he bowled without any aim and ended up with figures of 7.2-0-79-0.
I will be surprised if he gets a chance to play. If he does, he better use it. This could be his last chance.
How important is this man? The quickest bowler in the team will be expected to exploit the conditions and trouble the batsman with his pace and swing. He picked up wickets in the one dayers but at a very high strike rate and that might just worry Dhoni a little.
Otherwise, this man is the key.
The reserve opener will not get a chance unless Sehwag or Gambhir get injured. He impressed in his first test against Australia, but seeing the way the Delhi boys are playing, a chance to play seems far for him.
The comeback man for India! Had an excellent start to his career but injuries slowed him down and eventually got him out of the team.
The 'Smiling Assassin' did not particularly impress in Sri Lanka, with his pace down and smile out, but his line and length has forced the selectors to pick him.
If he gets back to his old ways, the Kiwis are in for a tough time.
The left hander did not have an impressive series for the first time in almost a year and a half. He will be hungry for runs and will play carefully and try to avoid that late cut to third man.
He can afford to be slow and steady, after all Virender Sehwag will be at the other end.
Unlikely to get a place in the first eleven in any match of the series because it is'nt really easy to replace the captain you know. Selected over Parthiv Patel after his performance in the Ranji Trophy.
Though, Patel also had a very good season, Karthik was selected after his good performance behind the stumps and with the bat in the inter-zonal matches.
For the first time in many years, an uncapped Mumbaikar will be part of the Indian test squad.
We were all waiting for the next Tendulkar, though he is'nt a batsman, he does have the ability to scale great heights. His zippy bowling could trouble the batsman and that was seen in the inaugural IPL season, where he played for the Mumbai Indians and won the hearts for many.
He also performed in the County match playing for Central Districts, picking up three important wickets. The surprise package of the squad without any doubt.
A lot of expectations ride on this fellow's shoulders. The replacement for Anil Kumble has so far impressed all and his googly has surprised batsman to a large extent. He picked up three wickets in the county game he played.
A good start would certainly have given him confidence and given him an extra edge to perform against New Zealand.
The talk of the town everywhere in India or New Zealand. Sehwag has already asserted his authority over the Kiwi bowlers but he might have to adjust with the new bowlers coming in.
Vettori and his army would be spending half the planning time on getting ideas on how to get the Nawab Of Najafgarh out, but still be clueless. The key man for India, if he plays well the team will most likely follow suit.
Another man who is the topic of gossip everywhere, Sachin has also, like Sehwag, brought fear into the bowlers mind. His innings in the one dayers, especially the 163*, would have the bowlers struggling for answers.
Nobody has Sachin in this kind of form for a long time, and unfortunately, New Zealand are going to have to bear the brunt.
Mr. Sixer would be an important member of the team. Another replacement for one of the Fab Five, living up to Ganguly's reputation will be tough, but that's exactly when Yuvraj performs. He relishes challenges, and takes his opportunities very well. Surely a major threat for the Kiwis.
This is the squad that could create history by winning a test series against New Zealand in New Zealand. Well the question is, can they?
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