Cheteshwar Pujara is seen as being in competition with Rohit Sharma for a place in India's XI. Punit Paranjpe / AFP
Cheteshwar Pujara is seen as being in competition with Rohit Sharma for a place in India's XI. Punit Paranjpe / AFP

India v New Zealand preview: Spin is a concern, but India should have the edge



Among a certain section of Indian cricket fans, there is the temptation to see the upcoming three-Test series against New Zealand as the appetiser for the main courses to follow against England (five Tests) and Australia (four).

But if you run through the squads, and especially the quality of the spin bowling, New Zealand have perhaps the best chance of inflicting a first home defeat on India since England triumphed 2-1 in 2012.

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As much as the vital runs made by Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen, that success was underpinned by the immaculate offspin of Graeme Swann, ably supported by the left-arm wiles of Monty Panesar. Swann has since retired, while Panesar is battling the gremlins in his mind. England’s spin larder is now so bare that Gareth Batty has earned a recall 11 years after playing his last Test.

You cannot say the same of New Zealand. Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and Mark Craig may not have imposing statistics early on in their careers, but between them, they tick off every requirement – legspin, left-arm spin and offspin. When India played them on a spin-friendly surface in Nagpur during the World Twenty20 last March, Santner and Sodhi were instrumental in sending the tournament favourites hurtling to a heavy defeat.

The spinners will be under additional scrutiny now that Tim Southee’s ankle-ligament strain has ruled him out of the Test series. The last time New Zealand toured, in 2012, Southee took 7 for 64 in the first innings in Bangalore, and then dismissed Sachin Tendulkar in the second in a tightly contested game that India edged by just four wickets.

Trent Boult had a poor series then, and the pressure will be on him and Neil Wagner, the bustling left-armer born in Pretoria, to do some early damage against an Indian line-up that struggled for runs even while routing South Africa 3-0 last season. The portents were not good during the warm-up game against Mumbai in Delhi, as Kaustubh Pawar and Suryakumar Yadav took hundreds off them. Yadav, in particular, gave them a caning, scoring 103 from just 86 balls.

The main headline from the warm-up game, however, concerned another Mumbai batsman. Rohit Sharma was drafted in for the third Test against West Indies last month, and scored 9 and 41 before watching the rainfall in the fourth and final Test in Trinidad. Cheteshwar Pujara was one of those dropped to accommodate Rohit, and when both were asked to play in the Duleep Trophy this month, it was seen by many as a duke-off to see who would take the last middle-order spot in the XI.

It turned out to be no contest. Pujara made 166, 31 and 256 not out in three innings. Rohit managed just 30 and 32 not out. Against New Zealand in Delhi, he made a patchy 18 before being stumped off Sodhi’s bowling. It will take an extraordinary leap of faith from the selectors for him to retain his place at Pujara’s expense.

India will also depend heavily on their spinners to ask questions of a New Zealand line-up with very little experience of such conditions. Ravichandran Ashwin is the unquestioned leader of the bowling pack, while Ravindra Jadeja’s quick-and-flat left-arm spin can be devilishly hard to confront on helpful surfaces. Amit Mishra, with his old-style loop, provides the leg-spin threat.

If Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane bat as they have over the past couple of seasons, with timely support from Pujara and the likes of Lokesh Rahul, India should win with something to spare.

You have to go back to November 1988 for New Zealand’s last Test win in India – they have won just two of 31 matches – and it will need a Nagpur-style meltdown from the home side for that statistic to change.

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Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Mascotte Health

Started: 2023

Based: Miami, US

Founder: Bora Hamamcioglu

Sector: Online veterinary service provider

Investment stage: $1.2 million raised in seed funding

Movie: Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster 3

Producer: JAR Films

Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia

Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Jimmy Sheirgill, Mahie Gill, Chitrangda Singh, Kabir Bedi

Rating: 3 star

UAE SQUAD

 Khalid Essa (Al Ain), Ali Khaseif (Al Jazira), Adel Al Hosani (Sharjah), Mahmoud Khamis (Al Nasr), Yousef Jaber (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai), Khalifa Al Hammadi (Jazira), Salem Rashid (Jazira), Shaheen Abdelrahman (Sharjah), Faris Juma (Al Wahda), Mohammed Shaker (Al Ain), Mohammed Barghash (Wahda), Abdulaziz Haikal (Shabab Al Ahli), Ahmed Barman (Al Ain), Khamis Esmail (Wahda), Khaled Bawazir (Sharjah), Majed Surour (Sharjah), Abdullah Ramadan (Jazira), Mohammed Al Attas (Jazira), Fabio De Lima (Al Wasl), Bandar Al Ahbabi (Al Ain), Khalfan Mubarak (Jazira), Habib Fardan (Nasr), Khalil Ibrahim (Wahda), Ali Mabkhout (Jazira), Ali Saleh (Wasl), Caio (Al Ain), Sebastian Tagliabue (Nasr).

Essentials
The flights: You can fly from the UAE to Iceland with one stop in Europe with a variety of airlines. Return flights with Emirates from Dubai to Stockholm, then Icelandair to Reykjavik, cost from Dh4,153 return. The whole trip takes 11 hours. British Airways flies from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to Reykjavik, via London, with return flights taking 12 hours and costing from Dh2,490 return, including taxes. 
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Result
Qualifier: Islamabad United beat Karachi Kings by eight wickets

Fixtures
Tuesday, Lahore: Eliminator 1 - Peshawar Zalmi v Quetta Gladiators
Wednesday, Lahore: Eliminator 2 – Karachi Kings v Winner of Eliminator 1
Sunday, Karachi: Final – Islamabad United v Winner of Eliminator 2

The new Turing Test

The Coffee Test

A machine is required to enter an average American home and figure out how to make coffee: find the coffee machine, find the coffee, add water, find a mug and brew the coffee by pushing the proper buttons.

Proposed by Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

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1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

In numbers

Number of Chinese tourists coming to UAE in 2017 was... 1.3m

Alibaba’s new ‘Tech Town’  in Dubai is worth... $600m

China’s investment in the MIddle East in 2016 was... $29.5bn

The world’s most valuable start-up in 2018, TikTok, is valued at... $75bn

Boost to the UAE economy of 5G connectivity will be... $269bn 

Seemar’s top six for the Dubai World Cup Carnival:

1. Reynaldothewizard
2. North America
3. Raven’s Corner
4. Hawkesbury
5. New Maharajah
6. Secret Ambition

CHELSEA SQUAD

Arrizabalaga, Bettinelli, Rudiger, Christensen, Silva, Chalobah, Sarr, Azpilicueta, James, Kenedy, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Saul, Barkley, Ziyech, Pulisic, Mount, Hudson-Odoi, Werner, Havertz, Lukaku. 


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