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Features and Interviews

‘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)

Features and Interviews

Lala Amarnath Award is a boost: Nayar

Mumbai all-rounder reflects on his Ranji performances last season

With the ability to give his team crucial breakthroughs and making big hundreds, Abhishek Nayar was Mumbai’s go-to man in Ranji Trophy 2012-13. The all-rounder had a dream run as he helped the domestic giants reclaim the coveted trophy. 

With 966 runs at an average of 96.6, comprising three centuries and eight fifties, he was the top-scorer for Mumbai and the second highest run-getter for the season. He also bagged 19 wickets, including a five-wicket haul in the tournament.

The Mumbai cricketer, who picks Jacques Kallis as his all time favourite and also admires Andrew Flintoff, will receive the Lala Amarnath Award for being the best all-rounder in the 2012-13 edition of the trophy.

Speaking to bcci.tv, Nayar said that he has always enjoyed both batting and bowling and finds it frustrating if he can’t do either.

Excerpts from his interview:

What does it mean to receive the Lala Amarnath Award?

It feels special. A lot of hard work was put in last year. I am happy that performances are recognized in some way or the other. It gives you that satisfaction that whatever you have worked hard for in the last year, your performances have been rewarded in some way.

How does it feel that BCCI recgonises the performances in the domestic circuit?

I think it is a big boost that our performances have been considered at this level. It becomes a platform and an eye-opener for everyone to know that there are guys performing at the domestic level as well. And it helps get the recognition that  you need to get into the Indian team.

Would you say that the 2012-13 season was your best?

It is by far the best. My statistics also say that. It is more special because the team won. It doesn’t matter if you do well and the team is on the losing side; it doesn’t give you that kind of satisfaction. The fact that the season was victorious for us was something that was special for me.

An all-rounder is increasingly becoming a rare breed. How have you groomed yourself to become one?

I have never enjoyed only batting or only bowling. I have always enjoyed doing both. I think when I can’t do either of them, it is quite frustrating for me. I have always wanted to bat, bowl or be in the midst of the game. That’s just how I have been since I have been young. So it’s nothing that I have had to do, or something that I have worked on; I have just enjoyed playing cricket and I enjoy being involved in the game, whether that be the bat or ball it’s just enjoyment for me.

Who is your favourite all-rounder?

Without a doubt Jacques Kallis! I used to love Andrew Flintoff, but I think recently the way Jacques Kallis has been performing and the fact that he bats at No.3 after bowling the number of overs that he does, is commendable.

You have batted at different position in the middle-order. How do you work to adapt?

As a batsman you are used to batting at different orders. In my career I have been fortunate to bat almost every position, whether it be opening or batting lower down as night watchman. So that obviously helped add flexibility to my game. I think it is a mindset that you have to adjust to more than anything else. I think everyone’s game is flexible enough to bat in every position. It is just the mindset that you can bat at this position.

Mumbai has lost players through the current season to retirement, national duty and injuries. How do you see your role and responsibility in the scenario?

Responsibility is always has always been there. It has never been the case that seniors are there so the responsibility is not there. You are playing for your state team, playing for a team like Mumbai I think responsibility comes with the job no matter who is playing alongside you or who is not. There is no added pressure at all. You have to make sure that your performances count for the betterment of the team.

Ahead of last season you had worked on your bowling and run-up. How has that helped and shaped?

I am really happy with the way I have been bowling. Obviously, I am coming off an injury now. It’s been three weeks since I have had a good practice session. I have had two sessions for this game (Mumbai vs Maharashtra QF, Ranji Trophy 2013-14). It’s never easy to come back from an injury and get the rhythm that you had prior to that. But I am hopeful that these three days I have worked hard enough to be in good condition to do well in this game.  

Being a key performer for Mumbai last season what confidence do you derive from it?

Well at the start of this season, I had a great season coming in to Ranji Trophy. Obviously I have not had the best of Ranji Trophy but when I played the India A games, when I played the Challengers and all the games for A tours, I think I did exceptionally well. It has been a long season coming in to Ranji Trophy, I have not had the ideal season that I would want to have. But I think I am happy where I am. I understand that there are going to be times that I won’t do well but also understand that my work ethic has to be the same, which it has been. I haven’t gone down on my intensity in any way. I am sure that runs will come and wickets will come, it is just a matter of time. But the important thing is that I have kept my head high and I have worked as hard as I can to do well in every game like when I started the season and likewise in the middle of the season.

With youngsters in the side how does your role change?

It is more about making them comfortable. It is about making sure that they feel part of this team. I try my best to mingle with the guys and make sure I can help them in any way that I can. And make sure that those guys can give their best on the ground and not only that but feel part of this team. I feel it is important that youngsters feel part of the team and feel secure. By secure, not that they take their place for granted but in the sense that they can say what they want to, they can act freely, they don’t have to think who they are talking in front of; whether Abhishek is there or Wasim (Jaffer) is there they can still crack the same jokes. That’s something that I try hard for the guys to be comfortable with.