Blackcaps v India: New Zealand braced for ultimate spin challenge in opening test, says captain Kane Williamson

The Blackcaps are bracing for a trial by spin in their two-test series against India, says captain Kane Williamson.

Winning a test series in spin-dominated India, where the home team have not lost a series since late 2012, remains one of the most arduous tasks for any team in the sport.

Starting with the opening match at Kanpur on Thursday, the series between India and New Zealand, will be the first between the sides that met in the World Test Championship final at Southampton in June.

Williamson's men won that contest, but they haven't won a test match - let alone a test series - in India since the 1988/89 tour.

"It's been a while since that final, which was a special memory, but we know we're here against a very strong side and they're formidable, particularly in their own conditions," Williamson says.

"I'm sure, throughout the series, the spin component will be a definite factor. I'm sure, it's no different here in Kanpur."

The touring side have had only two training sessions as a full squad, with their Twenty20 players taking part in a three-match international series, won 3-0 by India, before the tests.

Williamson, who skipped the T20 leg of the tour to focus on the tests, admits they will have to adjust quickly.

"We know the strength of the Indian spin bowlers and they've been fantastic for a long period," Williamson says, adding that they will be looking at different methods and ways to score against the spinners.

The hosts will be without captain Virat Kohli, who will bypass the first test, while openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, and fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami will miss both matches.

But a depleted Indian side are not enough to make New Zealand the favourites, insists Williamson.

"One of the big strengths of Indian cricket, in any format, is the depth and we've seen that in a lot of ways over the years," he adds. 

"The knowledge of their own conditions is something that is quite unique for touring teams as well. The challenge is a big one and we're excited to take that on."

The match also marks the official beginning of the Blackcaps' defence of their world test crown, with the start of the next two-year cycle.

Williamson says the five months since that match have felt even longer for the NZ contingent that specialise in the longer format, with the likes of veteran batter Ross Taylor and opener Neil Wagner raring to return to the international stage.

"Getting back into test cricket is always something special and having that gap, certainly for the guys who just play the test format, it's been some time," Williamson notes. "They're really excited to be back in the camp. 

"The challenge is a big one, but the team are looking forward to taking."


Join us from 5pm Thursday for live updates of the first test between the Blackcaps and India