India start overwhelming favourites
Friday, August 31-Tuesday, September 4
Start time 0930 (0400 GMT)
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.
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.
India, meanwhile, couldn't have asked for a better series to gauge how to fill the void left by the retirement of middle-order stalwarts Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Cheteshwar Pujara will be relieved after marking his return to the Test arena following a one-and-a-half year absence with a big century. Virat Kohli also solidified his position with a fifty and, after a wretched Australia series, India's attack finally looked Test-quality again.
India WLLLL (Most recent first)
New Zealand LLLDL
Watch out for
Suresh 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.
Pitch and conditions
The Chinnaswamy track isn't expected to be as spin-friendly as the one in Hyderabad last week, and the quicker bowlers are likely to have more of a role to play. The big concern for the organisers, though, is the weather. There have been evening showers over the past few days in Bangalore, and the predictions are for rains over the weekend as well.
MS Dhoni has ruled out experimenting with the India line-up ahead of the tougher Tests against England and Australia later in the season, which means the same XI which won the first Test is likely to feature in Bangalore as well. There have been some fitness concerns over Pujara, who was struck on the knee while fielding at short leg in the first Test, but Dhoni said Pujara is expected to play. "Pujara is a bit sore, but the good thing is he batted today at the nets and fielded also," Dhoni said. "He got a hard hit which means it will take some time to heal but I don't think it is restricting him in the field."
India (likely) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 Virat Kohli, 6 Suresh Raina, 7 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Pragyan Ojha, 11 Umesh Yadav.
New Zealand also aren't expected to make too many changes. Taylor said he was backing his batsmen to deliver after the dismal performance in Hyderabad. The one change they could consider is bringing in either Neil Wagner or Tim Southee for Chris Martin, who was dropped as recently as the second Test against West Indies last month.
New Zealand (likely) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Brendon McCullum, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor (capt), 5 Daniel Flynn, 6 James Franklin, 7 Kruger van Wyk (wk), 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Trent Boult, 10 Jeetan Patel, 11 Neil Wagner/Chris Martin.
Stats and trivia
- The Chinnaswamy Stadium isn't India's happiest hunting ground, with only one Test win in close to 17 years. Against New Zealand, though, India have won both Tests at the venue.
- After his pair in Hyderabad, Martin is now level with Glenn McGrath on 35 Test ducks, with only Courtney Walsh (43) ahead. Martin's seven Test pairs is a record.
- Brendon McCullum is 45 short of becoming the sixth New Zealand batsman to reach 4000 Test runs
"Sachin Tendulkar may score 45 or 50, still people think he has not scored runs. He has always been under this kind of pressure. He is enjoying cricket and he wants to still improve in every practice session."
"You have to reach a stage where mentally as well as with your stroke-play in attack and defence, you can dominate them. Not the other way around by letting them dominate you."
Former New Zealand coach John Wright has some advice for the visitors' batsmen
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo