First Test Preview | Ajinkya Rahane on NZ vs IND: Kiwis are favourites

Updated: Feb 21, 2020, 07:59 IST | Vimal Kumar | Wellington

Though India are enjoying a seven-match winning streak, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane feels it will be tough to beat New Zealand at home.

India's Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane. Pic/AFP
India's Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane. Pic/AFP

Gone are those days when there would be nervousness around the Indian camp before the start of their opening Test overseas. The jitters would be evident especially if the opening pair is inexperienced.

However, under Virat Kohli's leadership, Team India are a different beast altogether. It doesn't matter whether Indian openers Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw have played just nine and two Tests respectively.

The Indian think-tank is not sweating over Ishant Sharma, who will straightaway enter a match after an injury lay-off.

Their first-ever Test series triumph in Australia last year has increased the expectations of winning away from home for Kohli's men. It is no different in New Zealand.

"Expectations will be there as a team and individuals. The pressure was different when we didn't win overseas series. Now that we have started winning overseas, the expectations are different. As a team, it depends on how we can play to our strengths," said vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane on the eve of the first Test against the Kiwis here on Thursday.

The World No. 1 side is on a seven-match winning streak and are on course to seal the final spot in next year's World Test Championship final that will be played at Lord's.

New Zealand are coming into the Test series after a 0-3 drubbing in Australia, but at home, the Kiwis have not lost a single Test in the last three years.

Rahane had no qualms in stating that New Zealand start favourites. "I think New Zealand are favourites in their home conditions and we can't take them lightly. Our job is to play as a team and deal with situations and dominate sessions," said the Mumbai batsman.

"As a team, we want to enjoy this phase where people feel that we are favourites wherever we go. But I still feel the host country remains favourites because of different angles of NZ grounds compared to India. They know what to bowl and batsmen are aware of what shots to play. As a unit, we need to learn and adapt quickly," added Rahane.

In Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner, New Zealand have got a trio which are the second most successful pace combination. However, with Wagner missing the Test due to the birth of his first child, lanky Kyle Jamieson will make his Test debut. "You don't replace a guy like Neil. The qualities he brings are quite unique. You bring in a guy that targets different areas coming from a different height," said Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson.

For the next few days, the Basin Reserve is set to witness a battle of pacers.

118
No. of runs scored by Ajinkya Rahane in his only Test at Wellington in February 2014

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