India vs New Zealand, 2nd Test: Weather, combination worry for Captain Virat Kohli as series on the line for Team India

Virat Kohli’s return from a well-deserved holiday couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time, as he must balance toughness and caution in his selection decisions when India takes on New Zealand in the second and final Test starting on Friday at the rain-soaked ‘Maximum City.’ After an anticlimactic finale to the first Test, in which New Zealand escaped with a creditable draw by defying the Indian spinners on a slow turner, the home team, led by their regular captain, would almost probably opt for a little rejig in the lineup.

Due to severe rains that could put a damper on day one and underlying dampness, the hosts may only have four days to enforce a good outcome at the Wankhede. This will also bring an extra Black Caps pacer, Neil Wagner, into the picture. Kohli and new coach Rahul Dravid confront a difficulty with the present set-up since Indian cricket teams have never believed in shaking up the established quo in the past.

Despite a fairytale start to his career, Shreyas Iyer, who scored 105 and 65 under duress in Kanpur, is not guaranteed a spot. It happened to Karun Nair after a triple ton, but one could argue that it happened in a minor fifth Test against a fatigued attack and the squad wasn’t under any pressure. While Ajinkya Rahane is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons after 12 consecutive failures in 2021, it is improbable that the player who captained the team in the previous match will be dropped in the upcoming game due to a lack of form.

However, every additional chance he is given effectively means that the accusation that he is not delivering a strong signal will get louder. Cheteshwar Pujara is the second cause for concern, as he has repeatedly forgotten that cricket is about more than just survival. Every Test at home or abroad, every bowling assault – strong or banal – has put him in a precarious position. In England, he appeared to have altered his thinking, but in Kanpur, he was back in the same rut. When the team arrives in South Africa, Kohli feels he only has one man who can counter Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje’s new Kookaburra.

Supporters of Pujara and Rahane can rejoice, as their favourite players will not be missing this game unless they are injured. The Kohli trolls would then point out that it’s not just Rahane who hasn’t scored in over two years; the Indian captain hasn’t had a three-figure score in any format in over two years. And now that Dravid is on board, someone who is known for having a middle-of-the-road approach, it’s safe to assume that Mayank Agarwal will be dealt with as low-hanging fruit.

Shubman Gill hit an aggressive fifty in the first innings, and despite his poor defensive technique, which includes a huge gap between bat and pad, he will be retained as a long-term middle-order option.