New Zealand batsman Henry Nicholls reckons his side's world-class pace attack is on par with India. However, he feels that the Kiwis need to be wary against the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. India and New Zealand face each other in the World Test Championship (WTC) final in Southampton beginning June 18.
"India have a very good seam attack and also have experienced spinners like Ashwin and Jadeja. They have been consistent in all parts of the world (of late) and bring quality (to the attack)," Nicholls, who has been in good form of late in Test cricket, told PTI in an interview.
"The guile of Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja is something that we need to be prepared for," Nicholls added.
The trio of Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma are likely to take field for the WTC final if there are no injury concerns.
"Mohammed Shami along with Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma have proven their quality over the years which is similar to our seamers (Tren Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner) on whom we really pride ourselves on. So if you are facing that kind of a line-up, it's an exciting challenge and as a group, we are expecting it to be tough but also looking forward to the challenge," the 29-year-old southpaw said.
His teammate Devon Conway's strategy of pouring dry kitty litter on the track in order to create rough was backed by Nicholls as they are playing at a "neutral venue" which is known to assist the spinners. "That was something that we experimented with in the camp before we came over to the UK. You managed to get some more turn and get some practice. So playing at a neutral venue, we need to check what the wickets will be like there," Nicholls said.
Nicholls was a part of the New Zealand team that thrashed India inside three days in two home Tests in early 2020, something that will give them confidence going into the final. "It's an exciting challenge as finally, we will be playing a Test match at a neutral venue. So that for both sides kind of levels the playing field.
"We beat them 2-0 a season back (2019-20). But we know and accept that it's a different challenge but as a group, we take a lot of confidence from that series win against India. Obviously, Number one and two playing the final is a challenge too," he said.
Nicholls' sequence of scores in the last three Tests is 174 (vs West Indies), 56, 11 and 157 (vs Pakistan). "It's nice to kick on and get a couple of big scores. A season before this, I was playing well but not getting the results, so a lot of it was like keeping the things the same as it had been.
"If I get in, I want to bat as long as I can. To be able to do that couple of times during the summer, it was good to contribute to a couple of Test wins," said Nicholls.
He has recently had a couple of big partnerships with skipper Kane Williamson, including a monumental 369 run stand against Pakistan in Christchurch. "Kane is one of the best in the world and so consistent across all three formats that you just try to watch him and learn as to how he goes about his work," Nicholls said.
"He is a genius and great guy to talk to about the game. He keeps his plans pretty simple. So he is also nice to be someone with whom you want to bat out there in the middle and you have the best seat in the house when Kane is on strike."
Before the WTC final, New Zealand will play England at the Lord's in the first of the two Tests. Black Caps' highest scorer in that fateful 2019 World Cup final still at times finds it difficult to shrug off the disappointment. "It's something that will be there forever," said Nicholls about the game that New Zealand lost on boundary count.
"It would have been an amazing game of cricket anywhere in the world but it happened to be the World Cup final at Lord's which made it special. "It was disappointing as a group not to win that but we certainly held our heads high after such a performance. But again the way it finished was the way it finished. You can't do much about it," he concluded.
(With inputs from PTI)