New Zealand will starts as favourites in the two-match Test series and like I mentioned in my preview before the ODI series the Kiwis are a hard team to beat at home.
The Black Caps have variety and pace in their bowling attack. They have the likes of Tim Southee and Trent Boult – different bowlers who on their day can be lethal. Taking into account the conditions in Auckland, I will be surprised if they don’t leave a little grass on the pitch for the bowlers. They are playing at home and will ensure that they play to their strengths.
However, if the hosts decide to play on a flat track then I believe it will be advantage – New Zealand. Their bowlers will be in good rhythm and will have better understanding of how to exploit the conditions.
They have a lot of drop-in pitches in New Zealand, which are more result oriented. So whether it is Auckland or Wellington, the pitches will assist the fast bowlers early on.
The Indian batsmen will need to bat well, go through the grind and when there is some help in the wicket for the bowlers, graft runs and apply yourself and then things might ease off later. All one needs to do is go through that period and not lose four-five wickets in quick succession.
When it comes to New Zealand batting, Ross Taylor is their best batsman and with his experience he will take that into the Test matches wanting to get hundreds. I watched Ross bat in the one-day series and the thing, which impressed me the most, was his shot selection. He showed maturity by cutting down on risky shots and taking calculated risks, which resulted in consistency.
He reminded me of a young Aravinda de Silva who had every shot in the book but initially failed to convert his brilliant cameos. Later, he started understanding his game and got his shot selection right and as a result became a world-class batsman.
The youngster who impressed me was Kane Williamson. He lends stability and is a player to watch-out for. He is young and I have a feeling that he will get more runs than any other New Zealand batsman by the time he finishes his cricket.
The other strength I see in the New Zealand team is their fielding. They won’t drop too many catches and let me assure you that people who go to New Zealand thinking that batting and bowling are the two important departments come back acknowledging the importance of the fielding.
As far as the opposition is concerned, India captain MS Dhoni is an impact player and one would want to see him be himself on the tour and play an innings similar to the double hundred he played against Australia in February 2013. That is his strength. He doesn’t use it enough overseas.
(As told to Prajakta Pawar)