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New Zealand wait on 'crook' Williamson

Match facts

September 30-October 4, 2016
Start time 0930 local (0400 GMT)

Big picture

One-nil down is a bad place to be for a Test team in India. Worse still if you are playing back-to-back games. The memories are too fresh. The heat too invasive. That one ball spins but the other not so much is basically just too much. In 83 years and 249 matches, only twice has a team won the series from this predicament. And New Zealand have to go up against history with their best player feeling "crooked."

Kane Williamson was down with a bug and was unable to train at Eden Gardens on the eve of the match. At the pre-match press conference though, Tom Latham said there was "no discomfort" to his captain and added "he is just resting up and getting right for tomorrow." India's injury worries, on the other hand, seem to have dissipated with news that R Ashwin is likely to be fit. And with Ravindra Jadeja unlikely to lose his accuracy, they could well sit back and hit autopilot.

The pitch was said to have some grass cover and was expected to assist the batsmen early on. And since it would also break up as the game goes on, first-innings runs will be crucial. Helpfully that's when Cheteshwar Pujara and M Vijay average more than 65. Should they win in Kolkata, India will claim the No. 1 ranking once again.

New Zealand weren't decimated in Kanpur. They had two bad periods of play which need putting aside. Only, the human mind, when told not to do something, tends to … Let's put it this way. If asked not to think of an elephant in pig tails, what do you do? Perhaps that was why Williamson and coach Mike Hesson advised their players to simply be vigilant for longer and to concentrate on making good starts. That isn't a put down, nor is it generic feedback. Those are words of understanding and they provide direction. But will they still help New Zealand if they are forced to walk onto Eden Gardens - for the first time in 51 years - without their captain?

Form guide

India WDWDW
New Zealand LLDWW

In the spotlight

Virat Kohli says he doesn't care about records and couldn't care less about batting averages. His aim is to play a brand of cricket that will take India to the top and he believes such a time may not be far off. However, as a no. 4 batsman and captain of the side, he knows he cannot slack even if the team is doing well. He practiced with a rubber ball in the nets to be better prepared when the cricket ball bounces awkwardly - as two of them did in Kanpur to dismiss him. He clearly doesn't want to be caught off guard in Kolkata.

The baby face, the glasses, the mild-mannered persona, the thrifty left-arm spin and fine batting skills lower down the order. Mitchell Santner is going out of his way to emulate Daniel Vettori. But not too many of his team-mates would be disappointed if he tried to be New Zealand's version of Jadeja and in the second innings in Kanpur, he tried his best to be - 33 overs, 11 maidens and two wickets.

Team news

KL Rahul's hamstring injury provides a way back for Shikhar Dhawan. It is unlikely that Gautam Gambhir would be thrust back into the XI when he has not played Test cricket in two years. India think the pitch may help the batsmen and may be thinking about going with five bowlers. Offspinner Jayant Yadav may be in line for a Test debut with Kohli conscious about the number of left-handers in New Zealand's batting line-up.

India (probable) 1 M Vijay, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rohit Sharma/Jayant Yadav, 7 R Ashwin, 8 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 9 Ravindra Jadeja, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Umesh Yadav

New Zealand have repeatedly placed faith in Martin Guptill's ability at the top of the other and may not have any choice now considering the injuries they have had. If Williamson is ruled unfit, Henry Nicholls could get a look in. Offspinner Jeetan Patel may also play his first Test since 2013, unless they prefer the seam of Doug Bracewell and Matt Henry.

New Zealand (probable) 1 Tom Latham, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson (capt)/Henry Nicholls, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Mitchell Santner, 6 Luke Ronchi, 7 BJ Watling (wk), 8 Jeetan Patel, 9 Neil Wagner, 10 Ish Sodhi, 11 Trent Boult

Pitch and conditions

The square at Eden Gardens was relaid for the first time in 12 years for the 2016-17 season and this Test will be the first first-class game on it. As for the 22 yards, Kohli saw some runs on it: "The surface is pretty nice, it has a little bit of grass covering. The wicket is what we see in Calcutta more often than not. It's generally a very good batting wicket more often than not. We are expecting the same."

This is also the first Test in September in Kolkata. The weather has been overcast and there is some rain expected during the course of the match. As such the pitch has been under covers a lot. With sunset approximately at half-past five, bad light may be a concern although provisions have been made to use the floodlights, if necessary.

Stats and trivia

  • It is instructive looking at the list of non-subcontinent batsmen who have done well in the subcontinent. It is dominated by batsmen known for defensive techniques and stubborn occupation of the crease. Allan Border, Shiv Chanderpaul, Jacques Kallis and Alastair Cook at the top and only later followed by those with a bit more flair - Brian Lara, Kevin Pietersen, Ricky Ponting and Viv Richards.

  • New Zealand last played at Eden Gardens in March 1965

  • India will be playing their 250th Test at home.

Quotes

"You have to do all the cliché things you need to do at the start of an innings. We weren't too far away in the first Test. As Hess has alluded to, we just need to do things for a little bit longer. If we can do that with bat and ball it will a good chance in this match."New Zealand batsman Tom Latham on the areas to improve

"I don't get motivated by records. If you notice the cricket we played two years ago in Tests and now, it's easy to get carried by these records. You'll end up focussing on the process." India captain Virat Kohli on the prospect of becoming the No. 1 Test side should they win in Kolkata