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Taylor reminds me of Aravinda de Silva: Shastri

Former Indian cricketer feels Taylor, Williamson will hold key for New Zealand

New Zealand will starts as favourites in the two-match Test series and like I mentioned in my preview before the ODI series the Kiwis are a hard team to beat at home.

The Black Caps have variety and pace in their bowling attack. They have the likes of Tim Southee and Trent Boult – different bowlers who on their day can be lethal. Taking into account the conditions in Auckland, I will be surprised if they don’t leave a little grass on the pitch for the bowlers. They are playing at home and will ensure that they play to their strengths.

It also will give India their best chance because if the pitch has something for the fast bowlers then the visitors also won’t complain.

However, if the hosts decide to play on a flat track then I believe it will be advantage – New Zealand. Their bowlers will be in good rhythm and will have better understanding of how to exploit the conditions.

They have a lot of drop-in pitches in New Zealand, which are more result oriented. So whether it is Auckland or Wellington, the pitches will assist the fast bowlers early on.

The Indian batsmen will need to bat well, go through the grind and when there is some help in the wicket for the bowlers, graft runs and apply yourself and then things might ease off later. All one needs to do is go through that period and not lose four-five wickets in quick succession.

When it comes to New Zealand batting, Ross Taylor is their best batsman and with his experience he will take that into the Test matches wanting to get hundreds. I watched Ross bat in the one-day series and the thing, which impressed me the most, was his shot selection. He showed maturity by cutting down on risky shots and taking calculated risks, which resulted in consistency.

He reminded me of a young Aravinda de Silva who had every shot in the book but initially failed to convert his brilliant cameos. Later, he started understanding his game and got his shot selection right and as a result became a world-class batsman.

The youngster who impressed me was Kane Williamson. He lends stability and is a player to watch-out for. He is young and I have a feeling that he will get more runs than any other New Zealand batsman by the time he finishes his cricket.

The other strength I see in the New Zealand team is their fielding. They won’t drop too many catches and let me assure you that people who go to New Zealand thinking that batting and bowling are the two important departments come back acknowledging the importance of the fielding.

As far as the opposition is concerned, India captain MS Dhoni is an impact player and one would want to see him be himself on the tour and play an innings similar to the double hundred he played against Australia in February 2013. That is his strength. He doesn’t use it enough overseas.

(As told to Prajakta Pawar)

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)