Five tours, fourteen Test matches, and thirty-plus years of disappointment later, the Indian Test team have a glorious opportunity to bury this atrocious record.

Convincing series wins on the sub-continent against the likes of England and Australia underline the talents of an all-round unit on the rise.

A batting line-up packed with the power of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Shewag up front, followed by the mercurial talent of Sachin Tendulkar and the ever solid Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, with Yuvraj Singh thrown in for good measure, India should never struggle to score runs, and if the one-day series is anything to go by, they aren’t going to.

The Indian bowling attack picks itself, with the only question mark regarding who will share the pace duties with Zaheer Khan and Ishant Shrama. Lakshmipathy Balaji and Munaf Patel are the men fighting it out for selection, and while Balaji may have only just returned to the Indian set-up, Patel’s poor showing in the ODIs may see him miss out.

Onto the New Zealand camp, then…

Tim Southee’s dismal one-day form has seen the youngster replaced by newcomer Brent Arnel, whose impressive performances for Northern Districts and New Zealand A have been rewarded with an international call-up at the age of 30, but it’s hard to get too excited about the Kiwi bowling attack.

A three-pronged pace attack will in all likelihood be New Zealand’s modis operandi, with the spin twins of Daniel Vettori and Jeetan Patel providing some solidity to an otherwise mediocre department.

A five-wicket haul in the second Test against the West Indies should see Iain O’Brien retain his place in the starting XI where he will be joined by Kyle Mills and James Franklin, with the latter retaining his spot more due to Jacob Oram’s failure to return to full fitness than his mediocre showing against the Windies.

As a left-armer Franklin does bring variation to the attack, something that was so sorely missing during the one-dayers, but whether this will be effectively utilised remains to be seen.

If the Black Caps decide to go with just the one spinner, Chris Martin and Arnel will be fighting it out for the final spot.

With Jamie How out of the picture, the home side will field an inexperienced opening pair in the form of Tim McIntosh and Martin Guptill, with a more familiar middle-order of Daniel Flynn, Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder brimmed with the potential to clock up their fair share of big scores.

Key Men

New Zealand: Skipper Vettori is always a vital cog in the New Zealand wheel, but with the demise of Southee and the loss of Oram, there is extra pressure on Kyle Mills to perform. The paceman admitted during the one-day series that he was not delivering the goods in the required fashion, and while the 29-year-old holds a better ODI than Test record, he needs to step up and perform for New Zealand to succeed.

India: Following a successful spell in the New Zealand domestic league while his colleagues were at work in the one-dayers, it will be interesting to see how Rahul Dravid fits back into the team.

Prediction

It’s hard to look past Indiafor the win, with the visitors surely on course to continue their rampaging run through New Zealand.