A captain otherwise known as a run-machine is now without an international hundred in the past 20 innings. Twin failures for a young wicketkeeper and an even younger opener. Their best fast bowler from the last match injured. And to top all this, the failure to win a single Test match in Christchurch ever. Suffice to say, Virat Kohli’s India have their plate full with a few headaches going into the 2nd and deciding Test of this short series which starts on Saturday. With New Zealand already leading 1-0, the onus is upon India to force the issue upon the hosts if they want to avoid a 3rd overseas series defeat under Kohli.
Captain Kohli’s form with the bat is probably the biggest worry for the Indian team at the moment. He has not only gone 20 innings without an international hundred, but his frenetic attitude with the bat in the first part of the innings is starting to become a real problem for India’s victory chances. As seen in Wellington, Kohli looked unsettled soon after arriving to bat in both the innings.
While the New Zealand bowler’s bouncers played a crucial role in drying the Indian captain of runs, Kohli has in the past shown that he can survive testing spells from the opposition attack to lay the foundation of a good score. India will be hoping their captain is able to channel his 2018 version when he was scoring Test hundreds for fun against equally if not better bowling attacks.
Kohli’s form with the bat is having a spillover effect on his captaincy too as India let New Zealand getaway with a sizeable lead in Wellington despite having them 225 for 7 at one stage. While there has been a lot of talk about the Indian bowlers not being able to polish off the tail quickly enough, it goes without saying that it is primarily India’s batting that has failed to come up with the goods.
During the Australia tour of 2018-19, which also remains the zenith of Kohli’s Test captaincy till now, it was India’s batsmen comprising of Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Mayank Agarwal apart from Kohli who often put India on top by accumulating runs on the board. Unless India fail to come up with an improved batting performance in Christchurch, no amount of swing/seam bowling from their world-class attack is going to help their cause.
Not just worrying about his own form, Kohli also has some selection decisions to take. While Prithvi Shaw looks set to continue in the opening role after the backing from Kohli himself, the toss-up between R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja for the spinner’s role is going to be much more complex.
On the eve of the 2nd Test, while head coach Ravi Shastri hinted towards benching Ashwin the decision is not so straightforward as it was made to look by the former. It’s true that Jadeja has emerged as the better Test batsman than Ashwin in the last 2 years but the off-spinner had picked 3 wickets in the 1st Test and for him, it will be a tough pill to swallow to be ignored for his batting despite being the leading wicket-taker amongst active players for his country.
Another call is to be made on whether to continue with the out-of-touch Rishabh Pant or go with Wriddhiman Saha for the wicketkeeping spot. It was already a surprise for many to see Pant in the playing XI for Wellington, considering till recently Saha was widely acknowledged by the team management including Kohli as the best wicketkeeper in the world. Given Kohli’s habit of tinkering with his XI, the dice could roll either way tomorrow in this particular case.
Virat Kohli is yet to lose a Test match after winning a toss while New Zealand haven’t lost a Test after winning the toss since 2009. Even after the last game, Kohli had used the coin toss as an excuse while explaining the 10-wicket loss after the match was over. But even Kohli admitted that India’s batting unit was “not competitive enough” throughout the 1st Test.
– Mayank Agarwal needs 36 more runs to become the second-fastest Indian to 1000 Test runs. He has played 15 innings already. Vinod Kambli currently holds the record of completing the milestone in just 14 innings
– As far fetched it might sound at the moment, but if Virat Kohli ends his hundred-drought in Christchurch, he will leave behind Ricky Ponting to solely own the record for most international hundreds as captain (they are tied at 41 centuries each)
– If India lose the 2nd Test, Kohli would attract the unwanted record of solely having the 2nd-most away Test losses after his predecessor MS Dhoni (15)
India: Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli(c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant(w), Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Prithvi Shaw, Wriddhiman Saha, Navdeep Saini
New Zealand: Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Kane Williamson(c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling(w), Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, Ajaz Patel, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Matt Henry, Daryl Mitchell
Match starts Saturday at 04.00 AM (IST)
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