Cricket

Kane Williamson: Schedule challenging, but excited to be back playing Test cricket


The World Test Championship in India kicks off at Green Park here just three days after a three-match T20 International series between the participating teams. On Wednesday, both India captain Ajinkya Rahane and his New Zealand counterpart Kane Williamson stated that their teams’ preparations for an important two-Test series had been satisfactory, but Williamson was also candid enough to label the cricket scheduling “challenging.”

“It’s a very challenging schedule after a World Cup,” Williamson said at a virtual press conference.

“I think in these times it’s fairly challenging to have the content and the schedules that we all would have liked. And it’s sort of panned out with things outside of our control. But we’re all fortunate to be here and play international cricket. Being in India and playing cricket here is one of the most special things one can do,” he said.

“Getting back to Test cricket is always something special. And certainly, for the guys who just play the Test format, it’s been some time, so really excited to be back in the camp. It’s been a while since that [World Test Championship] final which is a special memory, but we know we’re up against a very strong side. They’re formidable in these conditions, so the challenge is a big one but one which we’re looking forward to taking,” he said.

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Shreyas Iyer to debut in first Test against New Zealand

Williamson was in no doubt that spin will play a big factor in both Tests. “I’m sure throughout the whole series, the spin component will be a definite factor and I’m sure it’s no different here at Kanpur. We were part of the last Test that was played here back in 2016. Things have changed a little bit; it’ll be about assessing those conditions as quickly as possible and trying to make those adjustments in the side quickly,” he said.

Those adjustments will entail the roles given to his seamers and spinners. Left-arm fast bowler Neil Wagner bowled for a while in the afternoon heat here, but given the likely nature of the wicket – low and slow – does his hit-the-deck style need to be modified to suit the team’s requirements? “The spin factor is going to be there, and Aijaz [Patel] and Will Somerville will play a big part in our bowling attack in these conditions. There will be important roles in seam bowling as well if there is reverse swing and trying to come up with some creative ways to take wickets is important as well. So there’s definitely a role for seamers and spinners,” Williamson said.

Good opportunity for youngsters – Rahane

The fact that India would be playing without three of its first-team players – Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, and K. L. Rahul (with injury) – did not make New Zealand the favourite in the series, felt Williamson, and Rahane, too, reiterated faith in the team’s replacement players.

“We’ll definitely miss all these guys. For all those youngsters playing, whoever gets an opportunity, we’ll back themselves so they can play with freedom. Rahul bhai (Rahul Dravid) is backing each and every individual. This team is all about backing everyone. It’s a good opportunity for youngsters to make an impact tomorrow,” he said.

Ajinkya Rahane.   –  The Hindu

 

Without hinting much about the team’s combination, Rahane announced that Mumbai and Delhi Capitals batter Shreyas Iyer would be making his debut. “We’re not too sure about the team combination. But in India, spinning tracks generally remain low and slow. We expect that, but we don’t know the wicket will behave,” he said.

Rahane will be one of the two players of eminence lending solidity to India’s batting at Green Park  – the other being Cheteshwar Pujara – and scrutiny will be on him as he attempts to resurrect his batting form. Rahane averages just 19.57 in 11 Tests this year, with just a single half-century in 19 innings.

Rahane, in his typical way, brushed aside concerns about his batting form. Revealing what message had been passed on by Dravid to Pujara and himself, Rahane said, “He told us to back our skills and to keep it really simple, not to bother too much about lack of runs. For me and Pujara, we know our game plan. We’ve been playing for so many years. It’s all about keeping it simple and backing ourselves.”



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