Test cricket is back in India. This is arguably the best format of cricket that appeals to the traditionalists as it puts cricketers’ skills at all levels on show. It is a very demanding format and requires, most of all, patience, no matter whether you are a batsman or a bowler. Now, with India set to face New Zealand, a number of players have come to the fore due to their potential as well as their performances in the recent past and they are expected to deliver victories. These are players who are expected to make the biggest of contributions during the Test series. A hiccup from them can mean the difference between a win or a loss and therefore, these players have been marked out as special and they must step up with spectacular performances. There are other players too of course, but they are expected to bat or bowl to potential to ensure the opposition does not run away with the match. So, check out here the players who are expected to do very well for themselves and Team India:
On current form, arguably, the world’s best batsman in the world is Team India skipper Virat Kohli. He has been scoring runs by the tons for a long time now and on this run-machine hinge India’s chances of effecting a big series win against New Zealand. Always an exuberant person bordering on over-confidence, Kohli, over the last year or so has toned down down his bravado to better pace his innings. While this has brought stability, it has in no way stopped him from scoring runs and it has not even slowed down the furious pace of scoring itself. While he is equally adept at scoring at will in Indian and foreign conditions, at home he should prove virtually unstoppable. On his able shoulders will rest India’s charge to decimate the Kiwis.
Not just the bat, Virat Kohli as the skipper is also expected to lead the team by example, set strategy and also get the team to perform way over potential. None of the Indian players are special in the sense that, let us say Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid or Sourav Ganguly were. These retired batsmen were gifted, the current Indian batsmen are there by dint of sheer hard work and will need encouragement from the skipper to perform at their best. Kohli, on his part is confident, believes in allowing team members enough freedom to bring out their best and never hesitates to show them a better strategic option when their strategies are clearly not working. A leader of such calibre is expected to win matches on his own power and Kohli is expected to deliver against the Kiwis to the maximum.
India has had a few explosive batsmen as openers over the years. K Srikanth comes to mind the most often. There have been others down the line, but Shikhar Dhawan is a special talent. He has the ability to tear the heart out of the opposition bowlers right early in the innings setting the match up for others to drive the score to insurmountable levels. However, he is prone to rushes of blood and throws away his wicket despite getting starts. This weakness he has had the opportunity to work on in recent months and hopefully he has learnt from his mistakes. He stands on the cusp of greatness in this series and if he manages to perform, he will have created significant wins for the team. If he does not, his career is is likley to end up against a wall. Playing in home conditions, Dhawan will never have a chance as easy as this to prove he belongs in the big boys’ club.
He has been in the form of his life over the last few series India has played. But there are also times one remembers that Vijay has thrown it all away. Nevertheless, the batsman has proved that he is a complete opener. He has the patience to bat for a long time, pace his innings properly and not throw away his wicket after getting a start. He he can also up the tempo when required. He has the potential to be the anchor around whom the team can build an innings and his role in it would be to absorb as much pressure as possible, get the shine off the ball and prepare the conditions for other batsmen to take advantage of. This includes dominating the bowlers so much that they lose their confidence. This will boost the entire team’s chances of powering the Test in India’s favour. He is a complete batsman whose job will involve having the most patience of them all and try to bat through the innings.
India have a problem of plenty at the top of the batting order. In the recent Test series against the West Indies Rahul put his hand up and made huge contributions at the start that allowed other batsmen to build on his success and win the Test series. He has the ability to score fast and at leisure as the situation demands. He is young and full of confidence and in home conditions he should prove to be a real thorn for the opposition. Problem is that he faces competition from Shikhar as well as Murali. Will Kohli and Kumble go for the youngster and bench Shikhar Dhawan? Most probably the decision will be taken keeping conditions in mind. Also, considering that Kohli keeps all options open, he may look at one of these players to slot into the one-down position. But then what of Cheteshwar Pujara? It is a gamble, but Kohli has never feared taking tough decisions and sticking to them to win matches.
With Indian curators increasingly willing to cooperate with the home side and provide pitches that turn from virtually the first afternoon, a seemingly advantageous position has been created for the hosts without even the first ball being bowled yet. While India may not have the kind of great spin bowlers that it once had, there is the dependable R Ashwin to bank upon. Not every delivery of his is expected to have a killer touch, but in Tests, it does bot have to be. There are enough overs available and Ashwin does get into the rhythm and becomes unplayable. His repertoire is limited, but he is the best bet India has to skittle out New Zealand cheap. So, whether the Kiwis bat first or last, the spinner from the South is expected to provide the biggest breakthroughs and win Tests all on his own.
The man has his critics. He also has the killer touch! He has been found wanting on a number of occasions in his career with both bat and ball. However, while he may be an all-rounder, but batting is something that others can focus on, and Jadeja can provide some significant inputs with the ball. On song, he is a great spinner and can land the ball in perfect, unplayable, spots and if the pitch is a willing one, then he can make the ball turn and bounce aplenty. He is again not a perfect spinner, but his doggedness, desire to excel and once he finds enough encouragement, to go for the kill are second to none. He is the perfect player to have in the the team to kill the opposition off.