Having taken a significant 1-0 lead in the three-Test series, India will go into the second Test at Eden Gardens in Kolkata with their confidence on a high. But for a few sessions on the first two days, they were successful in outplaying the Kiwis. The game at Kolkata will be crucial for more than one reason – the first one of course being that a victory will take India back to the top of the table in the Test rankings. Next, this will be the 250th Test to be hosted at Eden Gardens, marking another historic occasion.
While the players are in form, there is a worry for India as their lead spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been battling a corn in his middle finger. He bowled through pain in the last Test as well, and according to reports he is still having trouble. Even though there is a high possibility of the offie turning up for India on Friday, uncapped off-spinner Jayant Yadav, who has been added to the squad, has been put on stand-by. Also, with Lokesh Rahul ruled out, Shikhar Dhawan should get his chance to open even though Gautam Gambhir has been recalled.
Even as India tasted victory at Kanpur, there are still some issues they need to sort out at Kolkata. Skipper Virat Kohli for one has not been among the runs for the last few Tests. And, he got out in rather awkward manner in both the innings of the previous match. That is definitely something he will be keen to work on. Also, although India batted reasonably well, no one actually got a hundred in a last Test. That is something India must rectify. Rohit Sharma got some runs in the previous Test so it would interesting to see whether India retain the six-batsman policy.
With the pitch at Eden being re-laid, one is really not sure how it will behave. There was a tinge of grass on the eve of the match, but knowing Indian conditions, that will definitely be shaved off. Over the years, the Kolkata square has been a batting paradise, but has also produced some riveting contests between bat and ball. The Indian pacers did not have much to do in the Kanpur Test, but Mohammed Shami did chip in with a reverse-swinging spell on day five. That apart, it was business for usual as Ashwin and Jadeja ripped through the New Zealand batting line up.
The fitness woes for New Zealand refuse to cease. As if injuries to Tim Southee, Jimmy Neesham and Mark Craig were not enough, there are now question marks over skipper Kane Williamson’s availability for the do-or-die Test as he is down with a stomach bug. If he doesn’t play, New Zealand’s batting will further suffer as Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor are also struggling for runs. They would be pleased with the form Luke Ronchi showed with the bat at Kanpur, as well as Mitchell Santner’s overall show. But, can their bowlers find a way through the strong Indian batting?
--By A Cricket Analyst