One of the reasons New Zealand are expected to fare better than South Africa in Indian conditions is that they have three spinners, three varieties of spinners, two of whom have had success in India in the shortest format of the game. On the other hand, though, India's batsmen are expected to have improved their game on such tracks. They will be expected to do better than last year, when only Ajinkya Rahane managed to score a hundred and average over 35. It won't be easy, though, should the pitches be similar.
Anil Kumble, India's coach, spoke of the challenges faced by not just Indian batsmen, but any modern batsman batting out of his comfort zone, two days before the start of the first Test in Kanpur.
"It is quite challenging for a modern-day cricketer to keep changing formats," Kumble said. "Invariably, when you are playing the shorter format, it's in favour of the batsmen. There is hardly anything for the bowler. So, obviously, when they come to play in a Test match, irrespective of the conditions, seam or spin…
"We have seen modern cricketers, who, if you look at their records in previous years, they were all good players of fast bowling. But they have struggled on seaming tracks because of what the modern batsman encounters. That goes with all teams. But one good thing we have had is we are coming off a Test series, and we have a long Test season at home. So it'll only get better. And in terms of our preparations, we have spent a lot of time focusing on preparing to play spinners, and how to respond to playing spinners. And it will only improve, which you'll notice as the series goes by."
According to Kumble, the problem persists despite knowing what to expect in today's world of analysis. "I don't think there is any intrigue left, but the challenge is to adapt to those conditions as quickly as possible," he said. "It's equally the same for the home team as well because you're playing so much of cricket. It's all about adapting to whatever challenges are forthcoming. Yes, the home team certainly has the advantage of knowing and playing in these conditions, growing up in these conditions.
"For a foreign team, since they travel so much - and even for the Indian team now because we have travelled so much - the conditions are no longer alien. It's all about how good and how committed you are, and what kind of quality cricket you can put across on the park."
India's preparations have been thorough. They assembled in Kanpur on September 17, five days before the first Test, and began with their fitness tests. Knowing they could have to face a lot of left-arm pace in the series from Trent Boult and Neil Wagner, they called up Delhi's Pradeep Sangwan and Rajasthan's Aniket Choudhary to bowl in the nets. They were helped by two pretty good local left-arm quicks. Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, who is from Kanpur, was at the nets too.
The training sessions were long and intense. On Monday, they went on for at least two hours either side of their press conference, virtually spending the whole day at the ground. Kumble said they were not underestimating the opposition.
"The New Zealand team have done really well," Kumble said. "They are not just good at home, but they tour really well, and we're aware of that. The fact that they have three spinners, yes, we watch them - at least I watched them - two of the three spinners in the World T20. They played a significant role in New Zealand's progress. We respect the opposition and we know that New Zealand is a very potent team, not just in the spin department, but all-round as well. We certainly respect their all-round ability. They have different variations in their spin attack - left-arm spinner, offspinner, legspinner. That is something you don't often see in a foreign team."