INDORE - New Zealand captain Kane Williamson is hoping to be fit to lead his team's bid for a consolation win in the third and final Test against India, he said on Friday.

Laid low by a viral illness, Williamson watched from the sidelines as India registered their second successive victory in Kolkata to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series and ensure they will return to the top of the test rankings. "I'm certainly very hopeful of playing tomorrow. I can say I am getting better each day," Williamson, who scored 75 and 25 in the first Test, told reporters.

India opener Gautam Gambhir is set to return to Test cricket after a two-year gap. The left-hander, who turns 35 next week, replaced the injured Lokesh Rahul in the squad but sat out the Kolkata Test as Shikhar Dhawan opened the innings with Murali Vijay.

Dhawan fractured his left hand and uncapped Karun Nair was called into the squad as his replacement but home captain Virat Kohli confirmed that Gambhir would play in the final Test starting on Saturday. "That's a natural replacement...he is the third opener," Kohli told reporters at the Holkar Stadium which is staging a test match for the first time.

Paceman Ishant Sharma also missed the first two Tests due to a virus but Kohli is not too concerned about the spate of injuries at the beginning of India's 13-Test home season.

"Injury is something even the fittest of people face...The good thing is we can recognise them early and we're able to give them time to come back as soon as possible with good rehab, good recovery and good rest," he said. "Because it's a long season, it's important to address these issues, rather than pushing someone at 70-80 percent and losing him for the whole season."

MANAGING PACERS' WORKLOAD THE KEY: India must manage the workload of their fast bowlers during their jam-packed home season, captain Kohli said.

"It's very important to manage workload, especially for your fast bowlers," Kohli told reporters in Indore on the eve of the match. "For the one-day matches, they've been given rest because it's a long Test season and we need the bowlers fresh," he said, referring to the selectors' decision to omit Sharma and Kumar from the squad for three ODIs which follow the Tests.

The series against the Black Caps marks the start of a packed programme of international cricket for India who are also due to host Test matches against England, Bangladesh and Australia later this season. Kohli was full of praise for Shami who made his Test comeback in July against the West Indies after being sidelined for 18 months.

"Shami is someone who has come back very well, he's worked very hard on his fitness as well. You can see he's able to bowl those five-six over spells now," he said. "As captain I feel that he's a very important bowler for us in this full season and in future, as well. Looking at the near future, his fitness and rhythm is very, very important."

Shami, 26, has taken 66 wickets from 18 Tests at a strike rate of 54. New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, who missed the second Test with a viral illness, was hopeful of making it to the playing XI Saturday and help his side avoid being whitewashed.

Williamson conceded India's fast bowlers had outperformed his pace attack, making better use of the conditions and pitch. "In the last game the seam bowlers made a bigger impact. We did not know coming here that reverse swing would be quite effective. They exploited reverse swing better than us," the right-hander said. "In this part of the world they exploit the conditions better than anyone. We certainly hope we can turn it around in this game."