Spin can be the main weapon for New Zealand against India    AFP
Spin can be the main weapon for New Zealand against India AFP

The stage has now been set for what promises to be an enthralling contest between India New Zealand in the first Test at Kanpur. With the three-match Test series being played in the Indian subcontinent, the spin-factor is certainly playing see-saw in the back of the visitors head. But, how often, do we have seen a team biting the dust in their own den? Well, with India it s a scarcity. But, New Zealand can take a leaf out of England s successful campaign in India back in 2012-13, where the former won the four-match series by 2-1. Their application was remarkable and execution of the game plan was simply outstanding. They killed India with their own sword, which was primarily spin.

New Zealand hails of a decent spin attack, which consists of Mark Craig, Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi. When England muscled India, Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann spun a series of a deceiving web for the Indian batsmen and inflicted immense damage. Something, which New Zealand spinners are well capable in pulling off, as one famously saw in the 2016 World T20 encounter between the Kiwis and India. Indian batsmen fell prey to New Zealand spinners persistence. And lately, Indian batsmen have not inspired enough confidence to tackle spinners and look bereft of oomph when there is some turn in the wicket. Moeen Ali s success in Pataudi Trophy (2014) in England, Dean Elgar s wily spin in India (2015), Roston Chase s merry in the recently ended Test series in the Caribbean corroborates the belief.

The new crop of Indian batsmen have looked vulnerable and fragile against part-time spinners leave alone established one. New Zealand could exploit this Achilles Heel of Indian batsman and use it as an advantage to dismantle India. New Zealand s spin attack has variation, their three spinners Sodhi, Craig and Santner are unique in their own way and bring a lot of variation to the table. With the pitches in India being under scrutiny after some rank turners being produced for the series against South Africa, one can expect the surface to be balanced. And if the balance is heavily tilted in spinners favour, New Zealand have their bases covered to overcome the tweaking barrier. They don t possess much of a threat but have the potential to do so. In a sense, New Zealand have similar kind of spin attack to that of India, one being an off-spinner, the other one a leg-spinner along with a left-arm orthodox. Though the Indian spinners are far more accomplished and has massive experience, New Zealand still stand a chance.

Well, talking about the pace battery, despite Tim Southee s exclusion, New Zealand enough firepower in their artillery to gun down India. With Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Doug Bracewell and Matt Henry, New Zealand s pace attack wears a dominant look. The pitch will play a massive role throughout the series, but, whatever the scenario is New Zealand seems to be well equipped for both every conditions. The only chink in their armour is inadequate experience of playing in the subcontinent. They have the elements all they need is implementation but haven t really clicked as a unit. Their pace attack was decent against South Africa but they need to know the technique on how to bowl in the subcontinent, like how Dale Steyn, Glenn McGrath did. On paper, they look good but a team wins games with what happens on the field.

It s not a rocket science in succeeding against the red ball in Indian subcontinent, especially against spin. All it demands is demands is astute application, the kind of discipline, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen showed. Their batsmen need to bid time at the wicket and get their eyes in. Play late, and wait for the ball to turn, some quick reflexes and footwork would assist them to ease out against spin. Head in a still position, and not playing half-heartedly along with a watching the ball closely would be an added advantage. Not letting the bowler settle by getting to the pitch of the ball and making good use of the feet will put the bowler under pressure. Rotating the strike and making good use of the crease will hold a lot of importance.

New Zealand have had a reputation of producing quality all-rounders, something, which has been wanting in the Indian dugout. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor have to come out fighting and shoulder the responsibility of scoring big runs, which they would. Williamson has the ability to influence the whole batting line up and makes batting look easy. He quickly adapts to the conditions and has been in a brilliant form in the recent times and is indubitably the man to watch out for.

Martin Guptill has a golden opportunity to make his chances count and revive his languishing Test career. Henry Nicholls played nerves of steel in the series against South Africa, this series will be a true test of his character and diligence. BJ Watling is now considered as one of the most important players in the side. His temperament and accomplished wicketkeeping skills makes him an intimidating. On the contrary, Luke Ronchi smashed a ton in the warm-up match and made his case stronger for a spot in the playing XI. Santner can bat and New Zealand have some serious depth in their batting order with Mark Craig, Sodhi and Bracewell all being capable to bat.

Past is past, and what will make the difference is present, how New Zealand go out there and perform. If they manage to soak in the pressure and play as per the situation one can t see any reason behind them not putting up a fight and perhaps emerge victorious.

The first Test between the Indian giants and New Zealand is all set to commence on September 22 at Kanpur, followed by two more at Kolkata and Indore respectively. As of now all eyes are set on Kanpur and one can expect some intense action when these two giants lock horns in whites. With India going into the Test as favourites, one can expect New Zealand to create an upset as they are well capable of.

(Suraj Choudhari, an avid cricket follower who plays the sport at club level, is a staffer with CricLife.)