An Indian team travelling to Sri Lanka with five new-ball options seems excessive given the conditions,but the national selectors on Monday indicated that their picks were not necessarily keeping in mind the Sri Lanka series but the New Zealand tour that lies ahead.
Sources said the hurriedly arranged ODIs against Sri Lanka were being treated as no more than preparation for the tough New Zealand assignment scheduled to start at the end of next month.
Hand-picking Praveen Kumar and Irfan Pathan,though both are clearly not bowling at their best this season,they said,was part of this plan. There were also strong indications that the team for the one-dayers in New Zealand would be almost the same,barring injuries and the obvious addition of off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.
The Indian team will return from Sri Lanka only on February 11,giving them just a week before leaving for New Zealand,there is little scope for a camp between the two series,and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni wanted his fast bowlers to train with bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad through the Sri Lanka tour so that they were match-fit and tuned for New Zealand. Also,Dhoni wanted more back-up over the five ODIs matches and one T20 to keep his strike bowlers Zaheer and Ishant fresh for the Kiwis assignment.
With virtually no time in between this series and the New Zealand tour,theres little scope for changing or chopping this side unless its urgently required, a selector told The Indian Express.
Why the New Zealand tour is being taken so seriously is easy to understand. In recent times,India have made an impact in every part of the world and succeeded in winning either important Tests or ODI series be it West Indies,England,South Africa,or even Australia. New Zealand is the only place where India have done consistently badly and the disastrous 2003 tour still rankles.
As per statistics,India have played 30 ODIs in New Zealand,winning nine and losing 20. Against New Zealand in New Zealand,they have won just seven of their 24 matches. In Test matches,too,India have fared miserably,winning only four matches out of 18,and none since 1976.