The last time India faced a daunting Test series, after being drubbed in the preceding ODI, was not too long ago. On that occasion, a couple of months back against South Africa, India, facing the most intimidating bowling attack in world cricket and the best side in the world, stood firm, fought hard and were a little unlucky to come out with a 1-0 series loss.
Where to Watch Live
The match is scheduled for an 11 am local time (3.30 am IST) start with live coverage on Sony Six and Sony Six HD in India. The first Test can also be watched through free live streaming online HERE. Viewers in New Zealand can live stream the match HERE, while UK viewers can do the same HERE. Catch the action live online in the US HERE, while the match can be live streamed in Africa courtesy SuperSport HERE.
[Read the first day report HERE]
That same test, albeit in a little more tempered circumstances, awaits India when they begin their now favoured two-Test sojourn against New Zealand, just a few days after being blanked 4-0 in the one-day international series, starting with the first Test at Eden Park in Auckland.
The fact that India do not hold too much menace with the ball in limited-overs cricket, particularly in away conditions, is a well known, and indeed, acknowledged fact now. What made the plot go completely awry was the performance of the batsmen, or the lack thereof.
At the end of the day, there is only so much Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni can do on their own; time is more than nigh for a few of the other batsmen to step up - and not just in the batsmen-friendly sub-continent conditions, where every pitch is tailored for a score well in excess of 300.
From that aspect, the Test batting lineup looks a lot better - at least on paper. India will have that rock solid, impenetrable, I-won't-give-my-wicket-away-cheaply and why-on-earth-wasn't-he-included-in-the-ODI-squad Cheteshwar Pujara shoring things up at No. 3, while Kohli keeps growing in stature in THE format of cricket.
Murali Vijay looks like he has inculcated that thou-shall-not-get-me-out habit these days, with Ajinkya Rahane, impressive in the Test series against South Africa, providing further solidity.
So that leaves India, winless away from home in 12 Test matches, with two question marks over their batsmen - the two that will no doubt be picked for the first Test.
Rohit Sharma's incredible Indian autumn, where everything he touched turned to runs, has long been forgotten now, and the Mumbaikar is starting to look a lot like that player many fans lost their patience with.
The tour of South Africa was a disaster for the elegant right-hander, while Rohit, apart from one decent innings, hardly looked the part in the ODI series against the Kiwis.
Shikhar Dhawan also seems to have lost that swagger, which was a quality that endeared him to most fans, with a look of "Oh no not again" increasingly visible on that moustachioed face each time he gets out, which is invariably to the short ball.
Dhawan and the rest of the India batsmen will do well not to go for that compulsive pull shot, with the Test match format providing the option of building your innings without too much focus on the run rate.
That is where New Zealand, coming off the back of a convincing series win against the West Indies earlier in the summer, and their potent bowlers, might struggle against India. Where they were picking up wickets by the dozen with short deliveries, suddenly those same balls might prove to be just an energy-waster in Tests.
Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum observed some decent amount of grass on the pitch at Eden Park, though, which could make the toss crucial. MS Dhoni called correctly all five times in the ODI series -- not that it did India any good -- but the India captain will be desperate to avoid batting first on a surface that is bound to provide some assistance to the fast bowlers on the opening day.
"Decent covering of grass," McCullum said. "Funny-looking grass, too, at one end. It's a good hard surface and you expect more bounce. There is a bit of pace in it as well. I don't expect a huge amount of movement sideways, but it might just be enough."
McCullum pretty much hit the nail on the head there, because the Kiwi captain is confident his pace bowlers have the ability to make use of any assistance provided by the pitch, while the same cannot be said of the India bowlers, even with the experienced Zaheer Khan back in the lineup.
Team news: New Zealand: McCullum confirmed he would go with the same XI that beat the West Indies, which means Doug Bracewell is the pacer that is set to sit on the sidelines.
"It's a nice luxury to be able to continue with the same team," McCullum said.
India: R Ashwin is again set to miss out, with Ravindra Jadeja doing pretty well in the second Test against South Africa, and Dhoni unlikely to field two spinners. The rest of the team is pretty much settled, with Ishant Sharma likely to pip Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the third seamer slot.
Key men: New Zealand: Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson are scoring runs for fun, and with India failing to stop the duo from dominating with the bat in the ODIs, the away side's bowlers will be wary of the two right-handers.
India: The onus, as always seems to be the case nowadays, will be on Virat Kohli to make that wonderful bat of his to talk, while Pujara will also be an important cog in the Indian batting machine.
Expected lineups: New Zealand: Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum, Corey Anderson, BJ Watling, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult.
India: Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma.