KANPUR, India, Nov 24 (AFP): Buoyed by their T20 clean sweep, India will look to avenge their defeat in the World Test Championship final when they host a weary New Zealand in the first Test in Kanpur from Thursday.
However, India -- under new coach Rahul Dravid and second in the Test rankings behind New Zealand -- will be without their in-form opener Rohit Sharma, who has opted out of the two-Test series, and skipper Virat Kohli.
Kohli will return for the second Test in Mumbai in early December while Ajinkya Rahane will lead the side in his absence in Kanpur.
New Zealand will be boosted by the return of captain Williamson, who was rested from the T20 games following a gruelling schedule that saw his side travel to India just the day after losing the World Cup final in Dubai.
New Zealand will not start as favourites despite facing an Indian team missing several key players, skipper Kane Williamson said Wednesday, as the world's two top-ranked teams geared up for a spin battle in their first Test.
Hosts India have rested skipper Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami while opener K.L. Rahul was ruled out of the two-Test series on Tuesday after a leg injury.
New Zealand are the number one Test side and reigning World Test champions but are still wary of the hosts, who have often proved formidable in home conditions.
"I don't think we are favourites," Williamson said on the eve of the first Test in Kanpur.
"One of the key 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 side to an eight-wicket win against India at the World Test Championship (WTC) final in Southampton in June, which the hosts will be looking to avenge.
New Zealand have packed their squad 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 has been very large and it has played a big role in changing the complexion of the game," said Williamson.
"I am sure throughout the whole series, the spin component will be a factor and it will be no different in Kanpur. It will be all about assessing the conditions as quickly as possible."
India's stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane said his side would miss the first-choice players but their replacements were willing to stand up and be counted.
"It's an opportunity for youngsters to back themselves and play with freedom," said Rahane.
Squads: India: Ajinkya Rahane (capt), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Wriddhiman Saha, KS Bharat, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Md. Siraj, Prasidh Krishna.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Tom Blundell, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Will Somerville, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, Will Young.
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