22 Sep 2016

Black Caps face stern test in India

9:27 am on 22 September 2016

It's nearly 30 years since the New Zealand cricketers last won a test in India and recent form suggests they'll struggle to turn that around when the Black Caps begin a three test series in Kanpur today.

After test losses to Australia and South Africa this year New Zealand have slipped to seventh with India at number two.

New Zealand hasn't won a test in India since 1988 - the series when pace bowler Sir Richard Hadlee became the leading test wicket taker of the time.

Black Caps coach Mike Hesson

Black Caps coach Mike Hesson Photo: Photosport

While that record has well and truly been surpassed the Black Caps haven't managed to chalk up a win in their 14 subsequent tests in India - losing six and drawing eight which highlights the difficulty of the assignment for coach Mike Hesson and his side.

"We've won two test matches in our history over here so we know it's a tough place to come and win...and India are playing good cricket at the moment.

"But we've got a group of players who are highly competitive and that's the challenge for us, to be competitive and to stay in the game for long periods of time, (and if we do that) then good things can happen," said Hesson.

Sir Richard Hadlee bowling against India in 1990.

Sir Richard Hadlee bowling against India in 1990. Photo: Photosport

Reflecting on his 1988 feat when he surpassed England's Ian Botham as the test cricket's leading wicket taker, Sir Richard Hadlee said sub-continent conditions present the greatest challenge for New Zealand cricketers.

"Conditions in India are quite oppressive, particularly with the heat and humidity...when you are batting its difficult to concentrate when you are dripping wet all the time and we tend to struggle facing quality spin bowling and we are going to be exposed to that so quite frankly we're up against it," he said.

The Black Caps are preparing themselves for a spin assault on what will be a grassless Kanpur wicket and while New Zealand has its own spin trio of Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi and Mark Craig, their experience pales in comparison to their Indian counterparts but that doesn't faze Hesson.

Spinner Mitchell Santner

Santner is one of a three pronged spin attack the Black Caps are likely to take into the first test. Photo: Photosport

"Sometimes that's a good thing as you don't have a lot of fear and we saw the ways our boys operated in the T20 world cup, we're able to bowl on wickets that turn and if there is assistance for the spinners we're able to create opportunities," he said

"Our spinners have spent a lot of time talking and making subtle adjustments to be as effective as we can in these conditions."

If anyone knows how to take advantage of conditions in India its former Indian spinner Anil Kumble who is now coach of the national side.

Kumble is India's leading test wicket taker having taken 619 wickets in his 18 year test career is the first Indian to coach the home side since Kapil Dev 16 years ago.

India coach Anil Kumble

India coach Anil Kumble Photo: BCCI

"It's heartening to see spinners playing a major role not just in Indian teams but also in foreign teams...they (the Black Caps) have three variations left arm spinner, off spinner and leg spinner which is something you don't see in a foreign team."

Kumble said while conditions will certainly favour India, touring sides are much more used to what lies in store.

"The home certainly has the advantage of knowing and playing in the conditions and growing up in these conditions but for a foreign team, since they travel so much, conditions are no longer alien and also since most of the New Zealand players have played in the IPL they certainly know what to expect and how to adapt."

Making India the top test team is a key aim Kumble has set for his side.

Indian cricket officials have long been accused of ignoring the game's longest format.

They decided to right that wrong in June by scheduling 13 tests in the space of a year - all of them at home, as India tries to wrest the top ranking back from arch rivals Pakistan.

The Black Caps are now about to bear the brunt of that assault on the top ranking with the test scheduled to start at four o'clock this afternoon.

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