India head coach Ravi Shastri listed two primary objectives for his team, ahead of their two-Test series against New Zealand that begins on 21 February in Wellington.
India are currently the world’s No.1-ranked team in the MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings, and have swept their part of the ICC World Test Championship so far, winning all seven games – two in the West Indies and five against South Africa and Bangladesh at home.
Now, they are preparing for their greatest challenge yet in the new tournament, against a New Zealand side that is perennially strong in home conditions. A 2-0 win in the series would more or less put one foot inside the door as far as India’s contention for the World Test Championship final at Lord’s is concerned, a fact not lost on Shastri.
"Gill is phenomenally talented. His approach to batting is very clear and he exhibits a very positive mindset"
"We need 100 points to be in contention to play at Lord’s,” Shastri was quoted as saying by The Times of India. “Two overseas wins out of six Tests will keep us in good stead. We play six Tests overseas this year [two in New Zealand, followed by four in Australia later in the year], so that's one objective.
"The other is to play like the world's No. 1 Test team, because that's what this team believes in more than anything else. On the Test front, that's what we're looking at."
India’s contention has been hit by injuries to opener Rohit Sharma, all-rounder Hardik Pandya, and fast bowler Ishant Sharma, who could yet join the squad, pending clearance of a fitness test in Bengaluru on Saturday, 15 February.
In Rohit’s absence, Under-19 contemporaries Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill are vying for the second opener’s slot, with Mayank Agarwal a lock, following his golden run at home last year.
Back to back wickets.— BCCI (@BCCI) February 13, 2020
Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill depart.
Agarwal chases a short ball outside off stump, pushes hard at it and nicks it to the keeper. Gill caught at third slip.
Neither Shaw nor Gill could give a good account of themselves on the opening day of the Indians’ warm-up game against a New Zealand XI, with both batsmen getting dismissed for ducks, but Shastri was unperturbed.
"Both are supremely exciting talents," Shastri said. "Regardless of who gets into the XI in Wellington, the fact of the matter is they're here, part of India's national squad, and from here on they should know that the sky remains the limit.
"He [Gill] is phenomenally talented. His approach to batting is very clear and he exhibits a very positive mindset. That's very exciting for a boy who's just 20 going on 21."
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