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Sunil Gavaskar in Mumbai 15 January 2014 - 11:03am IST

‘NZ tour India’s harbinger of World Cup’

Sunil Gavaskar’s preview of India’s ODI series in New Zealand

After a welcome break, Team India is on road once again, on the second leg of what is going to be a long and important overseas season. South Africa was a huge learning curve for many young players and now they will be better prepared for playing on foreign lands.

They will certainly go to New Zealand with their confidence enhanced after the South African tour. The way they fought back in the Tests after losing the ODI series must give a lot of confidence, especially to the batsmen. India might have lost the Durban Test but the batsmen did very well in both matches and that should stand them in good stead.

However, it is not right to assume that winning their last ODI and Test series in New Zealand (in 2008-09) will give India an advantage. It was a very different team. Also, New Zealand are in good form – they recently won the Test series against West Indies and drew the ODI series. The Indians know that they will have to play very well to be able to beat the hosts.

Batting

As it generally does, it will help the Indian batsmen that they begin the tour with the ODIs. You can start off playing freely without worrying about your wicket too much, as you have to in Tests. If you play your shots and get some good runs, the confidence level rises in Tests. While it is a big plus for the batsmen, it may well be different for the bowlers because we have seen of late the bowlers have taken a pounding in the limited overs cricket, in all parts of the world.

The two Indian batsmen who didn’t have a very good tour to South Africa are Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. As opening batsmen their performance will be crucial in the ODIs. What they need to keep in mind is that they must wait for the ball to come to them. It will not come as quickly on to the bat as it did in South Africa, so they will have to play the ball as late as possible.

Bowling

A new face has been included in India’s pace attack for this tour in Ishwar Pandey. The tall and well-built lad has earned his place in the squad with some impressive domestic performances in the last couple of years. The confidence of the wickets he has been picking in domestic competitions should be maintained by playing him straight away. But the team management might look for experienced bowlers in the first couple of game and give Ishwar a chance later in the series.

Another newcomer is Stuart Binny. He is the kind of finisher that India need at No. 6 or 7 and he stands a very good chance of making the playing XI. R Ashwin is India’s No. 1 spinner but whether India will go with him or Ravindra Jadeja will depend on the conditions. The composition of the New Zealand team will also be a factor. If they play a lot of left-handers, Ashwin will be preferred.

The wickets

You can expect pitches where the ball will seam around, which is given in New Zealand. But the authorities there also know that India have a quality new-ball attack and preparing highly pacer-friendly wickets might backfire.

The bigger picture

This ODI series holds another significant importance for Team India. The fact that India are touring both host countries of 2015 World Cup – New Zealand and Australia – this year, is the best thing that could’ve happened to them. Since the young team will be able to experience the conditions of both countries, they won’t feel completely out of their comfort zone when they return there to defend the World Cup.

(As told to Shirin Sadikot)

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