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IND vs NZ, 1st Test: Can’t take India lightly in home conditions, says New Zealand captain Kane Williamson


New Zealand will not start as favorites, despite an Indian team missing several key players, captain Kane Williamson said on Wednesday as the world’s two top-seeded teams prepared for a spin-off battle in their first test. Host India rested captain Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, while opening batsman KL Rahul was ruled out of the series of two Tests on Tuesday after a leg injury. New Zealand is the number one Test team and reigning World Test champions, but is still wary of the hosts, who have often proved formidable in home conditions.

“I do not think we are favorites,” Williamson said on the eve of the first Test in Kanpur.

“One of the most important strengths of Indian cricket is its depth. India has great knowledge of their own conditions, we know the challenge is a big one.”

Williamson led his team to an eight-wicket victory over India at the World Cup (WTC) final in June in Southampton, which the hosts will want to avenge.

New Zealand have packed their team with five spinners and are considering playing as many as three of them in the match.

“As we have seen in this part of the world, the spin component was very large and it played a big role in changing the complexion of the game,” Williamson said.

“I’m sure throughout the series, the turning component will be a factor and it will not be any different in Kanpur. It will all be about assessing the conditions as quickly as possible.”

India’s replacement captain Ajinkya Rahane said his team would miss the first-choice players, but their substitutes were willing to stand up and be counted.

“It is an opportunity for young people to support themselves and play with freedom,” said Rahane.

He put aside concerns about his own patching form and said he was only one game away from scoring a big goal.

“What worries me is how I can contribute to the team. You can not score a hundred every time you come out to bat.”

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Rahane, 33, scored a Test century in December but could not impress in the next home and away series against England. In the WTC final, he made 49 and 15.

The captain did not announce his team combination for the Kanpur match, but confirmed that batsman Shreyas Iyer will make his Test debut on Thursday.

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