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It’s not often than an Indian Test win fails to top the sports pages, never mind the cricket pages. India’s comprehensive victory over New Zealand in Hyderabad though was relegated to a sideshow last week as Unmukt Chand’s Under-19 team won the World Cup in Australia. That India’s first five-day success in nine months was so overshadowed was a measure of how lightly New Zealand are treated as a Test opposition, and how heavily India are expected to win.
uresh Raina has been an integral member of India’s limited-overs sides for several years now, but Test cricket has proved tougher to crack. Kohli and Pujara have earned themselves middle-order spots at least for a handful of Tests, leaving Raina’s place as the most vulnerable. The Test against a feeble New Zealand offers Raina the chance to make the runs necessary to keep a host of challengers at bay.
Ross Taylor has repeatedly stressed on the need for his batsmen to make centuries if New Zealand are to compete in Tests. He himself has only one hundred in more than two years, and that too against a lightweight Zimbabwe. With Jesse Ryder sidelined, Brendon McCullum promoted to the opening spot, and Daniel Vettori injured, New Zealand need Taylor to shore up the middle order.
New Zealand’s Test fortunes seemed on an upswing after upsetting Australia in Hobart, following that up with their biggest Test win ever – an innings-and-301-run thumping of Zimbabwe – and the emergence of several talented young quick bowlers but the optimism has faded over the past few months. The home series against South Africa was always going to be a difficult challenge, but the capitulation on the tour of the Caribbean and against India last week has led to despondence among New Zealand fans. Much has already been written about the frail batting, the scarcity of centuries and the doubts against spin. The Bangalore Test presents a chance to show they are better than they have shown in recent times.