Ashwin hasn’t played a Test match since June last year and is close to finishing third among India’s leading wicket-takers behind Harbhajan Singh (417 wickets). Ashwin has so far taken 413 wickets in 79 matches. Anil Kumble (619) and Kapil Dev (434) occupy the top two spots for most Test wicket-takers for India.
Ashwin has shared the new ball in Test matches in the past as well. He has shared the new ball in 39 innings of 33 Test matches. On 15 of these occasions, he bowled the first over of the innings. Ashwin shared the new ball in both the innings of the Chennai Test against England earlier this year while opening the bowling with Axar Patel in the second innings at Ahmedabad.
Ajinkya Rahane can hand him over again and if the pitch helps, it will not be easy for the New Zealand batsmen to face him.
When Ashwin batted during the practice session, head coach Rahul Dravid also taught him some tricks about the backlift.
India can go with three spinners in the first test match. Along with Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel could be roped in as the third spinner to take 27 wickets in his debut series against England this year. Jayant Yadav is the fourth spinner in the team.