For the first time since 2016, Test cricket will return to the Wankhede Stadium this week as the Indian team’s final home Test in 2021 will be held in Mumbai.

Following a thrilling draw in Kanpur, India and New Zealand will square off at the Wankhede Stadium in the series finale. India came within a whisker of victory at Green Park, but Rachin Ravindra and Ajaz Patel stood in their way.

Pitch, Toss and conditions

The captain who wins the toss at Wankhade is likely to bat first and aim for a big score, as India defeated England by an innings and 36 runs in the most recent Test match at the Wankhede Stadium. The pitch is expected to be flat during the first 2-3 days after which, it will assist the spinners. The last Test at the Wankhede Stadium saw 30 wickets fall, with spinners taking 27 of them.

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Wankhade stadium pitch history – Cricket analysis stats

The Virat Kohli replacement saga

Virat Kohli, who took a one-Test break to give himself a well-deserved rest, will captain the Mumbai Test against New Zealand, and he must decide who will make way for him. Shreyas Iyer, who debuted in the first test as a replacement for Indian captain Kohli, ended up saving India twice, with innings of 105 and 65 on debut, making it impossible to leave him out of the second Test, especially when the other three middle-order batters have a combined average of 27.3 over the last two years.

Rahane or Pujara: who makes way for Kohli?

Based on statistics and numbers, the Indian vice-captain appears to be the top choice to get replaced by Kohli. Ajinkya Rahane has averaged 24.39 in his last 16 Tests, including a century on Boxing Day nearly a year ago. His career average has now dropped below 40, as he returned poor scores of 35 and 4 in the most recent Test.

There hasn’t been a Cheteshwar Pujara century in nearly three years. That’s 23 matches at an average of just 28.61. He’s had a few good innings in between, but they’ve all been as a support act. He has worn down the bowlers with grit and will, but he eventually needed a proactive batter like Rishabh Pant or Kohli with him to make those contributions count.

Kohli and his love for Wankhede

The famous Wankhede stadium has been the Indian captain’s favorite batting venue. The last time Kohli batted at Wankhade, India scored 631 runs in the first innings against a visiting England side in the fourth Test of the English tour in 2016, with Kohli scoring a magnificent 235. In the six innings at Wankhede, Kohli has averaged 72 and scored 433 runs.

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Virat Kohli in tests at Wankhade – total cricket stats

Wriddhiman Saha’s fitness

Wriddhiman Saha suffered from a stiff neck in the first Test. If Saha, who is already 37, is unable to recover, KS Bharat, who excelled behind the stumps as a substitute in the first Test, will be making his debut for India. Although Saha scored a gritty half-century in his last innings, his poor returns with the bat might see Bharath trump him in the playing XI as a superior batter.

Ashwin & Axar: Record-breaking duo for India

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Most test wickets for India in tests – Cricket analysis stats

Ashwin started the Test match at Green Park five wickets behind Harbhajan Singh and surpassed him by dismissing Kiwi vice-captain Tom Latham in the fourth innings. Ashwin now has 419 scalps at an incredible average of 24.48. The off-spinner has the second-highest number of 10-wicket hauls (7) among Indian bowlers, second only to Anil Kumble.

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Most wickets for India in first 4 tests – cricket analysis stats

With his six wickets against New Zealand, Axar has become India’s second-highest wicket-taker in his first four matches. In addition, the 27-year-old became the first player in over 100 years to record five five-wicket hauls in seven innings or less. This was Axar’s sixth consecutive four-wicket haul in Test cricket, putting him in an exclusive club.

Predicted XI

India: Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Siraj

New Zealand: Tom Latham, Will Young, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Tom Blundell (wk), Rachin Ravindra, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Ajaz Patel, Will Sommerville