India will play New Zealand in the first Test of the three-match series in Kanpur on Thursday. The team is hoping to defeat the visitors comprehensively in the series to perch on the top spot of ICC Test rankings. If they could do so, they will topple arch-rival Pakistan that currently hold the distinction.

However, three test matches and the Black Caps stand in India’s way. Though, the New Zealanders have never won a series in India, they can’t be written-off. Team India coach Anil Kumble acknowledges their strength. He says the Kiwis know how to adapt to Indian conditions.

“I don’t think there is any intrigue left. The challenge is to adapt to the conditions as quickly as possible. Equally the same for the home team. You play so much cricket and it is all about adapting to the challenges that come your way. Most of the New Zealand players have played in the IPL, so they know what to expect and how to adapt,” TOI quoted him as saying.

Kumble says team management has not asked for a spin-heavy pitch. But he was seen spending time on the pitch on the eve of the match.

In the past, India have relied on spinners to win Test matches. And this time also, it would not be much different.

Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will spearhead India’s bowling attack. He will expect major support from Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra.

However, inclement weather may dampen their chances to extract maximum turn from Kanpur’s pitch. They would have to keep an eye on the sky as heavy downpour is forecast in the city.

Captain Virat Kohli had had his worries with the spin. Indian batsmen grappled with some quality spin bowling in Sri Lanka. India struggled to chase 176 and were all out for 112 at Galle last year.

“We did not execute our batting plans, but we rectified that. The team wants to improve on that aspect of the game, something we surely needs to get strong. So much was build up (in media),”Kohli told PTI.

“We countered conditions really well away from home — England, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, we focused on pace, so we didn’t pay that much attention on spin. That was one area where we feel that we could have worked or should have worked more.

“Now we are putting in more efforts to bat against the spinners longer,” he added.

Meanwhile, captain Kohli believes India have what it takes to be the number 1 Test team in the world.
“More often than not, if you are fearless, the results will fall your way because you are willing to take extra risks in the course of the game. We believe we certainly have what it takes to be the best team in the world. We definitely believe that,” IANS quoted Kohli as saying.

To realise Kohli’s dream to recapture top spot, Indian spinners will have to click and trounce Kiwi batsmen.

How Team India will reach to the top

A 1-0 or 2-1 win will take India to 111 points, similar to current top spot holder Pakistan but ahead of them on decimal points while a 2-0 win margin will see India surge ahead at 113 points.

A 3-0 win will move India to 115 points. New Zealand, which is currently on 95 points, will remain at the seventh position with any of these margins with the maximum drop to 91 points in case they lose all the three matches.

A 1-1 series draw will result in India dropping to the fourth position on 108 points and New Zealand rising to fifth on 97 points.

If New Zealand is able to beat India by 1-0 or 2-1, they will move to the fifth position at 100 points with India one slot ahead on fourth with 104 points. New Zealand can overtake India to take the fourth position only with an improbable 3-0 win.

Should India go to the top of the rankings, it would be the third time this year and fourth overall. (IANS inputs)