New Zealand vs India, 2020: India’s Predicted XI for the Test series

New Zealand vs India, 2020: India’s Predicted XI for the Test series

Prithvi Shaw or Shubman Gill? Who should be opening with Mayank Agarwal?

India. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Youngster Prithwi Shaw has been included in the 16-man India Test squad for the two-match series in New Zealand, which also features the fit-again Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma who is included subject to getting the necessary clearances as he suffered a grade three tear in the Ranji trophy playing for Delhi.

With Rohit Sharma ruled out, the toss up for the second opener to partner Mayank Agarwal could be between Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw. Shaw and Agarwal are also part of the ODI squad. But Shaw got three opportunities and didn’t create much of an impact whereas Shubman Gill has been piling on the runs for India A against New Zealand A recently.

Gill has the backing of runs under him, having smashed 83 and an unbeaten 204 for India A in the first four-day fixture in Christchurch against New Zealand A. Shaw, meanwhile, has been in good limited-overs form, having impressed in the one-day leg of the India A series in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav has lost favour of the selectors as he was left out of the squad altogether, with R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja picked as the frontline spin options alongside five pacers.  Interestingly, almost exactly a year ago, on February 5, 2019, India head coach Ravi Shastri had called Kuldeep “our primary overseas spinner” in Test cricket, following his five-wicket haul in the Sydney Test in January.

It remains his last Test appearance. Navdeep Saini, who is uncapped in Tests, was also rewarded with a call-up. Rishabh Pant retained his place alongside first-choice Wriddhiman Saha, who has recovered from a finger injury he sustained during the Bangladesh Test in Kolkata.

Bumrah, too, had missed the home Test series against South Africa and Bangladesh with injury, and eased his way back into action during the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka. In January, he had also been pulled out of the Ranji Trophy, but has now regained his rhythm after playing a starring role in India’s 5-0 sweep of New Zealand in the T20I series. Bumrah has been out of rhythm and lacked his usual potency in the ODI series that India lost 0-3.

Meanwhile, Ashwin and Ajinkya Rahane will prep up for the Tests by turning out for India A in the second four-day fixture, which begins on February 7. The first Test will begin in Wellington on February 21 and the second in Christchurch on February 29.

Here we look at India’s predicted XI for their two match Test series against New Zealand that begins on February 21st, 2020:

1. Shubman Gill

Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill. (Photo Source: Twitter)

When Shubman Gill received his maiden Test call-up for the three-match series against South Africa, he was one of the three openers picked. Unfortunately for him, the other two, Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal were the ones who played and went on to put on an exhibition of opening batting. Essentially, it was Rohit who kept Gill out of the playing XI as Mayank Agrawal had already sealed his spot with decent performances against Australia and West Indies. Around four months later, with Rohit Sharma out of the New Zealand tour due to a calf strain, it is Shubman Gill who has rightfully retained his place in the Test squad and is in line for a debut.

While Gill’s List A record (an average of over 45) is good, it is not remarkable. His first-class record though, is truly extraordinary. From just 20 matches, the batsman has piled up close to 2,000 runs at a ridiculous average of 71.32, including six centuries. The thing that is rare among modern-day batsmen and one that separates Gill from the boys is his ability to play big innings. It has more to do with his natural run-making ability and free-flowing style and less with grinding it out. At just 20, Gill has the best of 268 in first-class cricket, a feat many only achieve in their mid-twenties.

The right-hander is renowned for his ability to pick the gaps and cream boundaries rather than muscle the ball out of the park. By that yardstick, Gill does not have bad numbers in the IPL either. An average of close to 35 and a strike rate of 130+ is more than acceptable for a batsman having featured in only two seasons.

Gill played an unbeaten knock of 204 runs against New Zealand A and helped India A go away with a draw in the first unofficial Test of the two-match series. Gill registered a double hundred which was the final day of the Test match. In his innings, Gill scored 22 boundaries and four sixes and his partnership along with Hanuma Vihari helped India A salvage a draw.

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