While Virat Kohli has been the leader of the pack with the bat for the Indian team, R Ashwin's phenomenal success over the last year and a half, has been another major reason behind India's success in whites. From spoiling Kumar Sangakkara's farewell series in Sri Lanka, to troubling AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla at home, the Karnataka offie has just got better with each series. Even on the Caribbean soil, Ashwin spun a web around the West Inidian batsmen as he scalped 19 wickets in three matches. Not to forget, the two centuries he hit against Carlos Brathwaite's men. In sublime form, he is once again expected to cause plenty of damage to the Kiwis.
The left-arm spinner is one of the three spinners the Kiwis selectors picked for the Test series. He might be just seven Test matches old, but there is a long career ahead for Santner, who has a great opportunity up his sleeves to put up a good show against India. The 24-year-old will be up against some of the finest batsmen in world cricket. Since Daniel Vettori's retirement, the Kiwis are struggling to find someone who could fill his shoes. Santner definitely has the potential to become one of the best spinners for his country. The Indian pitches are a spinner's delight and the three-match series should be a great learning experience for the youngster.
Martin Guptill has been a wonderful ambassador for New Zealand cricket. Despite not being in the best of form, the Kiwi selectors played a gamble by including him in the 15-man squad for series against India. Guptill, who is one of the few players in Kiwi squad who play spin well, will have to find his mojo at the earliest. When he last toured India, he could hit just one fifty from four innings. Even in the recently concluded series against South Africa, he could amass just fifteen runs from three innings. It is certainly a make-or-break series in the traditional format for Guptill.
The New Zealand skipper is one of those rare batsmen in modern-day cricket, who are likely to dominate cricket for the next seven to eight years. Along with Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Joe Root, the flamboyant right-hander has earned a name for himself with his consistency across formats. Since he is a wonderful player off the backfoot, and equally good against spinners, pressure is huge on the 26-year-old to lead from the front against Kohli and his men. While the Kiwi squad boasts of two other experienced campaigners in Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill, how well the visitors perform in the three-match seriess, will entirely depend on Williamson's personal form.
While there have been enormous praise for Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and R Ashwin in India's Test success over the last few years, one batsman who is yet to get his due is Murali Vijay. Once regarded as a limited-overs specialist, the right-hander has been a vital cog for the team, especially while playing overseas. He is likely to open the innings with Lokesh Rahul against the Kiwis. How bad has been his form lately, can be ascertained from the fact that he has just one fifty to his name in the last two series against South Africa and West Indies. It is crucial from India's perspective that Vijay finds his rhythm against the Kiwis.
There is no denying the fact that the Saurashtra cricketer is one of the most technically sound batsmen around, not only in the Indian set up, but across the world. However, while he has scored heaps of runs in domestic cricket, the right-hander has failed to prove his mettle at the biggest stage. What would be frustrating for Pujara, is the fact that he has failed to convert scores of 30s and 40s into big ones. Barring the unbeaten 145-run knock he played against the Lankans on their home soil last year, the 28-year-old hasn't enjoyed much success. With a long home season ahead, Pujara will have to repay the faith of Virat Kohli as well as the entire think-tank, who have massive expectations from the classy batsman.