Hyderabad, (IANS): The Indian cricket team will be without two of its finest stalwarts - Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman - when it takes the field against New Zealand in the first of the two Tests starting on Thursday, marking a new start for the side aiming to return to the top.
A little more than an year ago, India were the numero uno side but today they find themselves at fifth spot among the nine Test playing nations.
The road to recovery will be a tough one minus Dravid and Laxman, who have left a deep void in the dressing room by announcing their retirement within six months of each other.
Laxman's exit was more dramatic as he took the call last week, opting out of a farewell game at his home ground despite being picked for the series. Subramaniam Badrinath was drafted in as a last-minute replacement for Laxman.
But as Dhoni pointed out in his post-match press conference Wednesday, the retirement of seniors gives the youngsters a great opportunity to prove their mettle against the struggling Black Caps, ranked eighth in the world.
"We are hoping that we don't miss them in the series. It is a good chance for youngsters and they will get the experience when they play," said Dhoni.
"We have not played a test for six to seven months. So it is important to get into the groove. We look to get our basics right," he added referring to India's tour of Australia.
The hosts, aiming to stop their eight-match losing streak, should not face major problems in getting past the Kiwis, who come here after drawing a blank in the West Indies.
The likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli and Gautam Ganbhir still make India a formidable batting unit, especially in home conditions.
Ishant Sharma is set to make a return after undergoing ankle surgery and will share the burden in the pace department with spearhead Zaheer Khan.
The series provides an opportunity to recalled players like leggie Piyush Chawla, batsmen Cheteshwar Pujara and Subramaniam Badrinath, who was a last-minute replacement for Laxman.
New Zealand, on the other hand, sre likely to have a hard time in sub-continent conditions without their most experienced bowler Daniel Vettori. Tarun Nethula and Jeetan Patel will be the frontline spinners in the former captain's absence.
Captain Ross Taylor, wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill form the crux of the batting line-up.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Subramaniam Badrinath, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Umesh Yadav, Ajinkya Rahane, Piyush Chawla, Ishant Sharma, Suresh Raina.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Daniel Flynn, Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor (Captain), Kane Williamson, BJ Watling, James Franklin, Kruger van Wyk, Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Tarun Nethula, Jeetan Patel, Chris Martin.
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