New Zealand won’t start as favorites despite facing an Indian side that is missing several key players, skipper Kane Williamson said on Wednesday, as the two top-ranked teams in the world prepare for a battle of spins during their first test. The Indian hosts rested skipper Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami while opener KL Rahul was excluded from both test series on Tuesday after a leg injury. New Zealand are the first test team and reigning world test champions, but are still wary of the hosts, who have often turned out to be formidable at home.
“I don’t think we’re favorites,” Williamson said on the eve of the first Test in Kanpur.
“One of the main strengths of Indian cricket is its depth. India has a great knowledge of its own conditions, we know the challenge is great.”
Williamson led his team to an eight-wicket victory over India in the World Testing Championship (WTC) final in Southampton in June, which the hosts will seek revenge.
New Zealand have packed their squad with five spinners and plan to play up to three in the game.
“As we’ve seen in this part of the world, the spinning component has been very important and has played a big role in changing the color of the game,” said Williamson.
“I’m sure throughout the series the rotation component will be a factor and it will be no different in Kanpur. It will be about assessing conditions as quickly as possible.”
Substitute Indian skipper Ajinkya Rahane said his side will miss the top picks but their substitutes are ready to stand up and be counted.
“It’s an opportunity for young people to support each other and play with freedom,” said Rahane.
He dismissed concerns about his own uneven form, saying he was only one game away from scoring a big score.
“What concerns me is how I can contribute to the team. You can’t score a hundred every time you go out at bat.”
Rahane, 33, scored a century of trying in December but failed to impress in the following series at home and away against England. In the WTC final, he scored 49 and 15.
The skipper has not revealed his team suit for the Kanpur game, but has confirmed that batsman Shreyas Iyer will make his test debut on Thursday.
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