Virat Kohli has dropped a solid hint which all but confirms that Ishant Sharma and Prithvi Shaw are certainties for India’s Playing XI against New Zealand for the first Test against New Zealand at Basin Reserve, Wellington, starting Friday.

Ishant, who was initially left out of the squad on account on an ankle injury, recovered in time and was flown to New Zealand to join his teammates, while there has been a toss-up between Shaw and Shubman Gill to be Mayank Agarwal’s opening partner.

“He (Ishant) looked pretty normal and pretty similar to what he was bowling before the ankle injury. He is hitting good areas again and he has played (Test cricket) in New Zealand couple of times, so his experience will be useful to us. It was really good to see him bowling with pace and in good areas,” Kohli said during his media interaction,” Kohli said two days ahead of the Test.

“Prithvi is a talented player and he has his own game and we want him to follow his instincts and play the way he does. Look, these guys have no baggage and are not desperate to perform in any manner.”

Shaw made his ODI debut earlier this month during the ODIs, which India lost 0-3, and got starts in all three matches 20, 24 and 40. In 2018, Shaw began his international career, scoring a century on Test debut, against West Indies, before losing his place in the side due to an injury. In the absence of Rohit Sharma, Shaw holds a chance to reclaim the spot that he never lost, and despite low scores in ODIs, Kohli backed his two young openers to get India off the blocks.

“Prithvi, I think you can call him relatively inexperienced and Mayank, I wouldn’t call him that inexperienced because he has scored a lot of runs last year. So he understands what his game is like in Test cricket,” Kohli added. “I think sometimes in white ball cricket we try to do too much but once you come into red ball cricket, you fall into that disciplined mode of batting, which obviously suits him much more at this stage.

“A bunch of guys playing with fearlessness, something that can motivate the whole team, gives us start that the team wants and not get intimidated by the opposition in any way.”

Kohli weighed in further on India’s team combination, underlining that the aim is to go ahead with three pacers and one spinner. Ishant, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah are expected spearhead the pace department while R Ashwin should be the automatic spin pick.

“If it had been a Johannesburg pitch, I could have said it’s a possibility (to play four pacers) but our team has that skill that we can bowl out other teams with only three fast bowlers,” added Kohli.

“But you need one world class skillful spinner, who can take wickets on any pitch. We won’t copy the home team. We would rather figure out what is the most lethal combination, which gives us balance. As a bowling group it’s better than the one that came to NZ last time and that is why we have got so many teams all out in last two and half years. We would like to repeat that here also.”