Kohli’s India eye New Zealand scalp in 500th Test

News Hour:

Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev will be among the icons celebrating India’s 500th Test in Kanpur this week as Virat Kohli’s team begin their quest to regain the top spot in the world rankings against a dangerous New Zealand.

The match marks both the start of a three-Test series against the Black Caps and a packed programme of international cricket for India, who will also host England, Bangladesh and Australia later this season.

India are strong favourites after their recent 2-0 victory over the West Indies in a four-match away series, which saw Kohli lead from the front by scoring his first Test double century in Antigua.

But their success was tinged with disappointment as they managed to topple Australia at the top of the rankings, only to be leapfrogged by their arch-rivals Pakistan when rain wrecked their hopes of a clean sweep in the Caribbean.

India start the series just one point behind Pakistan, and they will be hopeful of returning to number one before Pakistan play three Tests against the West Indies in October and November.

Inspired by Kohli, India’s top order has been in fine form of late — with the newcomer Lokesh Rahul scoring three centuries in the last eight Tests.

But they can’t afford to be complacent after their stunning defeat by New Zealand at the start of the World Twenty20 in March.

Their last Test series with New Zealand ended in a 1-0 away defeat in 2014, a contest which saw the then Black Caps’ skipper Brendon McCullum score a triple century.

Although McCullum has since retired, his successor Kane Williamson is now established as one of the game’s finest batsmen and he has already found form in India, hitting a belligerent half-century in a warm-up last week.

Other former captains such as Sunil Gavaskar and Mohammad Azharuddin are expected to join Tendulkar and Dev at Kanpur’s Green Park as part of the festivities organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Dev, who skippered India to victory in the 1983 World Cup, warned that a New Zealand side packed with veterans of the Indian Premier League (IPL) T20 tournament should not be underestimated.

“India will have the home advantage but times have changed, teams and players are no longer alien to foreign conditions,” he told the NDTV network.

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