India in line for third clean sweep in four years
India's Rohit Sharma (second left), Cheteshwar Pujara (second right) and Ajinkya Rahane (right) during a training session on Friday. (AFP)
Indore - India had blanked Australia 4-0 in 2012-13 and the West Indies in the next season
The series already in their pocket and the number one ranking cemented, a dominant India go into the third Test against New Zealand on Saturday, aiming yet another clean sweep of a Test rubber at home.
The hosts had blanked Australia 4-0 in 2012-13 and the West Indies in the next season. They nearly repeated the feat against South Africa last year and this impressive history in recent past makes India favourites in the first-ever Test being hosted by this city which has a long tradition in the game.
New Zealand, who have competed well in phases against the rampaging home team so far, have an enviable task of stopping the Virat Kohli-led side from notching up their 12th win at home from 14 encounters.
The Kiwis would hope that captain Kane Williamson, who missed the second game due to illness, regains full fitness to lead them for one last-ditch effort to score a rare victory on the Indian soil.
Williamson batted in the nets on Thursday and bowling coach Shane Jurgensen said the signs were positive. Williamson is easily their most accomplished batsman to negate the twin threat of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as he showed in the lost cause (by 197 runs) in the series opener in Kanpur, making 75 and 25.
In Williamson's absence the Kiwis folded up without much of a fight for totals of 204 and 197 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. His return is very important especially with the other top batsman in the ranks, Ross Taylor struggling for runs.
New Zealand spinners too have been unable to exert sustained pressure on the Indian batsmen after the new ball bowlers make early inroads and this too has had a bearing on the series.
Tom Latham and Luke Ronchi have shown the way to some extent in batting against the Indian spin-oriented attack, but others need to step up.
India would certainly miss the services of Bhuvneshwar Kumar who is out with a back injury after bowling sustained spells and grabbing a five-wicket haul in the first innings at Kolkata.
Umesh Yadav, who played in the first game, is expected to be back to lend support to the impressive Mohammed Shami who bowled well in Kolkata even when his daughter was in the ICU of a local hospital.
The commitment and skills with the old ball shown by Shami had been exemplary.
The biggest threat for the Kiwi batsmen are Ashwin, with his variety in off spin, and Jadeja, who bowls left arm spin with pin-point accuracy with subtle variations.