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Features and Interviews

‘New Zealand play well as a unit’

India have a battle on their hands, says Ravi Shastri

Although the New Zealand cricket team is being considered as underdogs compared to the Indians, the hosts have some players who can turn the game to their team’s side at any point of time.

With some terrific limited-over games against the West Indies on their home turf, the Black Caps must be on a high because of their individual best performances throughout the series.

It will be a very good tour for both sides because both these teams have got a very good home record. New Zealand always punch above their weight at home. New Zealand play well as a unit. They might not have any superstars in their team. They might not have the extreme pace of South Africa but they play well in their conditions.

There is no question that India will be much better prepared because they have been in South Africa. The conditions in New Zealand will be a little different pace wise, but the fact that they were there for a month will stand them in good stead.

In the one-day series, I would give India the edge in spite of them playing away because they have a very good side. It is a very good fielding side and they have got variety in their pace attack now.

New Zealand batting

I think it will be Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill, who has been very consistent and of course there is Jesse Ryder now who will hold the key. Taylor is still New Zealand’s best batsman without a shadow of doubt as he showed that in the Test series against the West Indies. He seems far more settled in the game.

All eyes will be on Jesse Ryder. He is a genuine match-winner. He has come back into the New Zealand team after a while now so it might take him some time to settle but there is no doubt in his ability.

Among the new names, Corey Anderson has been in news for Twenty20 cricket. There is difference between T20 and 50-over format. You have to bat for longer period. So, we will only know over the next week whether he is actually a dangerous player and adapt for other formats.

New Zealand bowling

The pace attack comprising of the likes of Tim Southee, Corey Anderson, Mitchell McClenaghan, Kyle Mills, they are all pretty much similar. I think what the Kiwis lack is someone who can step on the gas and add that extra pace. But then, it doesn’t matter too much in the one-day game. What they would definitely try and ensure is that there is something in the pitch for their bowlers. And if that happens then this series will be exciting. If you play on flat tracks then New Zealand will give away their edge of playing in home conditions.

Nathan McCullum is a wily customer. His job will be not just to contain but to also go for wickets. One thing in his favour is he knows how the Indians bat. He knows that they will go after him but then it gives him a chance to pick up wickets as well. You don’t want the opposition just blocking out the spinner and get five runs per over off him. I would rather give those five runs in an over and pick up a couple of wickets.

Pick of the players

Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor are the real danger players as far as India are concerned.

(As told to Prajakta Pawar)

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)