• Skipper Kohli says change of weather to be taken into account
India wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha has recovered from a neck problem and is available for selection for the second and final Test against New Zealand, captain Virat Kohli said yesterday.
Saha was unable to don the wicketkeeping gloves on the final day of the first Test in Kanpur due to a stiff neck with KS Bharat taking his place behind the stumps during the drawn test.
“Saha is fit as of now and he has completely recovered from the neck niggle or spasm that he was suffering from,” Kohli told reporters before the Wankhede Stadium test starting today.
Kohli himself skipped the three-match Twenty20 series and the opening test against New Zealand to take a rest. While Kohli’s return will be a welcome boost for India’s batting, it will also leave them with a selection headache.
In Kohli’s absence, Mumbai batter Shreyas Iyer made a dream Test debut with a first-innings 105 followed by a crucial 65 in the second in Kanpur.
Calls have grown to drop either Ajinkya Rahane, who led India in Kanpur, or Cheteshwar Pujara – both of whom have been short of runs – to vacate a spot for Kohli and allow Iyer to retain his place.
Unseasonable rain in Mumbai has also meant that both teams have not been able to practise outdoors since Wednesday and the weather conditions could have an impact on the team selection, according to Kohli.
“We will discuss our combination. The change in weather and the change in conditions have to be taken into account,” he said, adding that he expected the Wankhede Stadium pitch to have something on offer for batters and bowlers.
“But we also can’t assume that the weather will remain the same for the next five days. So we have to have a combination which can adapt to any change.”
New Zealand have never won a Test series in India, let alone a Test match since the 1988/89 tour.
The top-ranked Black Caps, who beat India in a June contest in Southampton to win the inaugural World Test Championship, have a chance to make history with a win in Mumbai.
“We gained a lot out of our efforts in Kanpur,” New Zealand’s pace speahead Tim Southee said yesterday.
“We’re just looking forward to a new challenge here in Mumbai.”
Also yesterday, Kohli said his side were seeking clarity about the upcoming tour of South Africa, which is in doubt over the spread of the Omicron Covid variant.
India are expected to fly to South Africa for a full series including three Tests from December 17 but the highly infectious new Covid variant has put plans on hold.
“There are players who are not part of this group right now who will be entering quarantine to join the team,” Kohli told reporters a day out from the Mumbai Test.
“Those kinds of things you want to seek clarity as soon as possible.”
A tour by India is easily the biggest money-spinner for South African cricket and is believed to be worth hundreds of millions of rands.
On Tuesday the South African government had pledged to take all precautions necessary to keep players safe and praised the “solidarity” of India’s cricketers in choosing to continue with the tour.
But the Board of Control for Cricket in India has also said it will await a government nod on the Proteas tour before making a final decision.
Kohli insisted their focus is on the final Test while staying connected with the board over the Proteas trip.
“At the end of the day we understand, our focus from the Test match will not shift regardless,” he said.
“We have been talking to the board and we are pretty sure within a day or two we will have absolute clarity as to what is going on. We need to be realistic about things as well, we cannot just ignore the things that potentially could put you in a confusing place and no one wants to be there.” Kohli said.
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