Indore, (IANS) Skipper Virat Kohli on Friday confirmed that seasoned opening batsman Gautam Gambhir will return to the playing eleven when the Indian cricket team takes on a beleaguered New Zealand in the inconsequential third and final Test at the Holkar stadium here on Saturday.
After losing his place during the England tour in 2014, Gambhir was named as replacement for Lokesh Rahul, who suffered a hamstring injury in the first Test against the Kiwis.
Confirming his place in the playing eleven, Kohli said the team will not experiment with a make-shift opener and instead give the Delhi southpaw a chance to resurrect his career after two years.
“That’s a natural change because of injury to Shikhar (Dhawan), natural because he is the third opener in the team,” said Kohli at the pre-match presser here.
Dhawan was on Monday ruled out of the third match after suffering a thumb injury during the second match at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, which India won by a whopping 178 runs to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
Karnataka rookie batsman Karun Nair was named as a replacement for Dhawan, but with Gambhir already warming the bench during the second match, Kohli opted to go for a regular opener.
In the bowling department, India will miss the services of medium pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who is out with a back injury after grabbing a five-wicket haul in the first innings in Kolkata.
Although Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur has been roped in as a replacement for Bhuvneshwar but Umesh Yadav is most likely to partner Mohammed Shami with the new ball.
Kohli also praised Shami for returning to the team following a long injury, saying he is a very important part of the bowling attack.
“Shami has come on well. He has worked very hard on his fitness as well. In the five-six overs (spell) he runs in, gets bit of momentum. He can take wickets on any wicket.”
“That’s the sort of skills he has. He is a strike bowler and whenever he comes on to bowl he makes something happen. He is a very important bowler for us,” Kohli said.
In the spin department, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-armer Ravindra Jadeja are automatic choices and could spell more trouble for the visitors.
New Zealand, on the other hand, will be aiming to stop the hosts from notching up their 12th win at home from the last 14 encounters.
Captain Kane Williamson, who missed the second game is likely to return to the playing eleven for the final game. His inclusion will boost the batting, which had a torrid time in both the previous matches.
The visitors will also count on opener Martin Guptill to provide a sound start with Tom Latham, who has been in good nick in the series. Senior batsman Ross Taylor, who was the stand-in-skipper in the second Test also showed signs of coming back to form.
If the Kiwis want a turnaround in their fortunes, the middle order comprising Williamson, Luke Ronchi, B.J. Watling and Mitchell Santner will have to step on the gas while facing the Indian spinners.
In the bowling department, pacers Trent Boult and Neil Wagner have been in good form but spinners Ish Sodhi and Santner failed to put any pressure on the Indian batters.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Jeetan Patel, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, James Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner and B.J. Watling.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Murali Vijay, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Amit Mishra, R. Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Jayant Yadav, Shardul Thakur and Karun Nair.