New Zealand’s slide down the Test rankings will continue when they are beaten at home by India next month.
That two-Test series is a chance for the Kiwis to bounce back from their 3-0 thrashing in Australia, which put a major dent in their reputation and saw them lose their number two ICC ranking to the Aussies.
It also looms as a gilded opportunity for the world’s No.1 Test team to show they’re a genuine force away from home after their series win in Australia last summer.
The Kiwis will cop another humbling, with India better in every department.
The tourists have a superior batting line-up, a much more dynamic pace unit, and a pair of elite spinners to choose from in Ravi Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin.
Kane Williamson’s side will battle what appears to be a major mental block playing against the strongest Test teams.
Stretching back to late 2013, New Zealand have an excellent 27-17 win-loss record. Yet they have a horrendous record against the three strongest teams of that period – India, South Africa and Australia – winning just one of 18.
On paper, they are a much better team than that awful record suggests. But, for whatever reason, the Kiwis simply cannot produce their best against those top teams.
After being torn apart by Australia, New Zealand will not have the belief and composure to beat a hugely intimidating side led by megastar Virat Kohli.
The batting line-up was obliterated by the Australian attack. Well, the bad news is that India’s bowling unit is every bit as good. In fact, they outbowled the Aussies Down Under last summer.
In Jasprit Bumrah, India have a spearhead who is just as quick, accurate and skilful as Pat Cummins. Bumrah’s record to date is extraordinary – 62 wickets at 19 without playing a single Test at home. Like Cummins, he has the ability to excel on any kind of pitch with any brand of ball.
His offsider, Mohammad Shami, now deserves to be mentioned alongside the likes of Cummins, Bumrah, Kagiso Rabada and James Anderson as an elite quick. In his past 20 Tests, Shami has snared 80 wickets at 22, and in that time has excelled with the Kookaburra ball in Australia and South Africa, with 31 wickets at 22.
Then there’s beanpole seamer Ishant Sharma, who is also on a long hot-streak. In the past two years, Ishant has grabbed 66 wickets at 19, and has been very good in Australia, SA and England.
India also have the luxury of being able to play five bowlers due to the hot batting form of quality spinner Jadeja. The left-armer, who bowled nicely in Australia last summer, is now arguably the world’s best Test all-rounder.
In the past four years, Jadeja has averaged 46 with the bat and 25 with the ball. India can afford to bat him at seven, which means they can build a terrifying five-man attack by either adding star off-spinner Ashwin or a fourth paceman.
In fast, skiddy quick Umesh Yadav and classical swing-bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India have two strong pace options behind their own Big Three of Bumrah, Shami and Sharma.
Yadav is also in blistering touch, having taken 74 wickets at 22 over the past three years. Kumar, meanwhile, has been good in his limited opportunities, with a career record of 63 wickets at 26.
The quality and depth of these pace and spin stocks are phenomenal and will greatly worry a batting line-up that surrendered again and again in Australia.
If that isn’t all scary enough, consider the potency of the batting.
Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara are superstars. Kohli is a goliath away from home, while Pujara last summer dominated the champion Australian attack.
Up top India have the world’s in-form opening combination of Mayank Agarwal and Rohit Sharma. Agarwal impressed last summer and has churned out 872 runs at 67. Rohit, meanwhile, is one of the greatest ODI batsmen in history and is now showing signs he may be about to become a Test star also.
While he still has a poor record away from home, Rohit’s recent returns have been jaw-dropping – 1195 runs at 70 from his last 15 Tests. The last time he faced NZ, in India, he made 238 runs at 79.
At number five, Ajinkya Rahane is one of the world’s most underrated batsmen. Rahane is particularly valuable away from home, having made 2619 runs at 47.
Then in the wicketkeeper position, they can pick from perhaps the world’s most pure gloveman, Wriddhiman Saha, or the destructive batting talent of 22-year-old Rishabh Pant, who averages 44 at a blistering strike rate of 71.
That is a remarkable amount of talent assembled in one squad. It won’t surprise me if India roll through New Zealand with ease to record a 2-0 victory.
Certainly, it is hard to imagine how the Kiwis can win.