KL Rahul injury weakens India further before New Zealand Test series

Hosts will be missing Kohli, Rohit, Pant, Bumrah and Shami in Kanpur Test on Thursday

Cricket matches keep coming in thick and fast, with India and New Zealand now facing off in a two-match Test series.

The Black Caps had just a couple of days to recover from their T20 World Cup final defeat before they played three T20s in six days, losing to Rohit Sharma's India 3-0.

The first Test begins in Kanpur on Thursday, and the number of absentees is the biggest talking point.

It is the first time India will be facing New Zealand in whites since their defeat in the World Test Championship final earlier in the year. But they will be severely restricted in terms of resources against the No1 ranked Test team.

The hosts will be without captain and batting mainstay Virat Kohli, who has decided to skip the first of the two Tests. Batsman Rohit Sharma, wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant plus fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have decided to miss both matches, given their brutal schedule.

On Tuesday, KL Rahul was also ruled out due to a left thigh muscle strain and replaced by Suryakumar Yadav.

However, what should balance things out for India is the availability of their ace spinners Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel.

The team will be led by Ajinkya Rahane in Kanpur with Kohli returning for the second and final Test in Mumbai from December 3.

Shubman Gill was expected to play in the middle order, but with Rahul's injury, he should be back in the opener's slot.

New Zealand, on the other hand, will be slightly better placed. They will be without pace spearhead Trent Boult and all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme.

Captain Kane Williamson, who missed the T20 series, faces one of his biggest challenges as the Kiwis have not won a Test in India since 1988.

"They're one of the great challenges on the Test calendar," New Zealand coach Gary Stead said on Tuesday.

"It's something we haven't done for a while, we haven't been here since 2016 but we're certainly looking forward to what's ahead."

India realise New Zealand are their toughest opponents in international cricket - they had ended a seven-match losing streak against the Kiwis across formats during their recent T20 win.

"We have home advantage, but we can't take New Zealand lightly at all," India vice-captain Cheteshwar Pujara said.

"They've played excellent cricket and they're a good side in all the formats. We'll stick to our game plans, we'll stick to what we know, how to play in Indian conditions."

Updated: November 23rd 2021, 11:52 AM