It’s been four years since India lost a Test at home. Defeat to England in 2012 served as a rude wake-up for India and from then on, they have resurrected the fort which Alastair Cook’s team had managed to breach. Cut to 2016, and that 1-2 defeat appears an aberration.
Just ask Australia (4-0), West Indies (2-0) and South Africa (3-0) who came here with many hopes and expectations (OK, West Indies not so much) but left battered, bruised and their spirits broken. A large part of this domination is due to India’s spinners, in particular R Ashwin who has taken an astonishing 86 wickets in 12 home Tests since England left. Ashwin recently became the fastest Indian to 200 Test wickets and with Ravindra Jadeja, looms as an almost insurmountable challenge to visiting teams.
This same pair will look to bury New Zealand again as the third match starts at Indore’s Holkar Stadium which is all decked up for its maiden Test.
Venue: Holkar Stadium, Indore
Date and Time: Saturday, October 8, 9:30 am (IST)
Weather: Mostly cloudy and humid. Thunderstorms expected on day one
After KL Rahul, India have been hit by two more injuries. Shikhar Dhawan (fractured left thumb) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (back strain) will miss the third Test. Of the two, it is Bhuvneshwar’s absence that will affect India more because of his current form and he must be gutted on missing out as well. Shardul Thakur has been called as a replacement although it’s unlikely he will be included in the playing XI ahead of Umesh Yadav who sat out in Kolkata. Dhawan’s injury couldn’t have come at a better time for Gautam Gambhir who will make his Test return after two years of slogging in the domestic circuit.
Regular captain Kane Williamson took to the nets on Thursday and looks fit to return to the playing XI after he missed the second Test due to a viral infection meaning Henry Nicholls will have to make way. Other than that, they should go with the same playing XI. Even though Martin Guptill continues to disappoint, the lack of option works in his favour, providing yet another chance to get among the runs.
Probable XI: Tom Latham, 2 Martin Guptill/Henry Nicholls, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Luke Ronchi, 6 Mitchell Santner, 7 BJ Watling (wk), 8 Matt Henry, 9 Jeetan Patel, 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Trent Boult
Pitch and Conditions:
The Holkar Stadium, boasting a capacity of 28,000, is the latest entry into India’s Test venues. The stadium is no stranger to international cricket having hosted four ODIs apart from two Indian Premier League matches. The pitch offers even bounce and favours batsmen. Some good news for New Zealand who time and again tested Indian batsmen when conditions have been more suitable for fast bowling but so the home team pacers have also not shied away from returning the favor.
The forecast is for thunderstorms and rain but the India Meteorological Department has ruled out it affecting the Test match as it is expected to subside in two days. Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association officials are geared up to minimize the effect on the play if the inclement weather does interrupt the Test.