India climbed to the top of the ICC Test Ranking because they started playing well overseas. One of the main reasons for them doing well in overseas conditions was because they were able to finally find a quality all-rounder in Hardik Pandya who brought balance to the side.
H Pandya Not Fit For Test Series
H Pandya established himself in all three format of the game and was a vital cog in the test team. He could make quick runs at number 6 when it mattered and was also able to send down around quite a few overs at a brisk pace and pick up the odd wicket. The fact that Kohli could rely on Pandya as a third or fourth seam bowling option, meant that Kohli could use his main fast bowlers in shorter spells.
Kohli no longer has that option as H Pandya has been out of the Indian team for a long time. Pandya is currently recovering from his injury and is not part of the Indian team touring New Zealand. India have not been able to find a like for like replacement for H Pandya and have chosen to play H Vihari in his place.
Indian Seamers Will Have A Tough Workload
India will most likely go into the first test with 3 seamers. J Bumrah, M Shami and U Yadav are expected to play the first test because I Sharma is also recovering from an injury and will need to pass a fitness test in India before getting on the plane to New Zealand. Even if he clears his fitness test, he will most likely be ready only for the second test.
With no H Pandya in the side, the three fast bowlers will be expected to bowl a lot of overs. Kohli and Shastri are likely to use just one spinner in New Zealand and will have to choose between R Jadeja and R Ashwin. The selectors are likely to give Jadeja the nod because he is rated as a better batsman than R Ashwin. The second reason why Jadeja will get the nod over Ashwin is because G Vihari bowls off-spin and will be called on to send down a few overs.
The lack of a quality seam bowling all-rounder could hurt India big time, especially if the conditions are going to provide assistance to the fast bowlers!