India set,conditions apply

Nowhere in the cricketing world is the word ‘adaptability’ more important than in New Zealand.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Mumbai | Published: February 19, 2009 12:25 am

Nowhere in the cricketing world is the word ‘adaptability’ more important than in New Zealand. And Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni showed that he had a fair share of that quality on Wednesday,one day before he leads his young team to their sternest test so far.

The shade of blue on India’s newest ODI and Twenty20 kit,which was unveiled in Mumbai,might have been bolder than usual,and Dhoni was one of the boys,all seeming overtly brash as they strutted around in the new kit,snickering and chiding each other as they walked the ramp in the morning. But it was a more earthy shade that the flamboyant Indian captain donned when he faced the media a few hours later,underplaying the tag of favourites that has been associated with his team in the build-up to the tour.

“We will just take it as another tough series,and we are aware that conditions will be very different. But we have a very balanced unit and are quietly confident,” said Dhoni.

Apart from being his first full-tour as captain away from the sub-continent,Dhoni also has a 33-year Test drought to overcome as India haven’t won a Test in New Zealand since their win at Auckland in 1975-76. And a series-win has proved to be elusive ever since Nawab of Pataudi employed three spinners to win India their first overseas series victory in 1967-68.

High on quality

Coach Gary Kirsten insisted that the Indian team had quality both in the fast bowling as well as spin departments,and was equipped well enough to combat any kind of conditions that were served up. The former South African opener,who never had too many issues while batting in New Zealand during his illustrious career — he averaged 50+ in Tests there — added that it was very difficult to predict the kind of conditions that would confront the Indian team.

“We will have to assess the conditions only after we get there. The last time India toured,the conditions were incredibly difficult for batting,but the pitches used for the series against the West Indies seemed very batting friendly,” said Kirsten.

Dhoni insisted that preparation would be the key to his team’s success,and that practice sessions could prove to be crucial in the eventual outcome of the series. “We will have to put a lot into our training sessions once we get there. We have four days before the first Twenty20 match,which will be very crucial,” he said.

India are not scheduled to play any practice game before they face the Kiwis at Christchurch on February 25,but Kirsten believed that it wasn’t something to worry too much about. “Cricketers today play so much that they need to be prepared to combat new conditions and environments all the time,” he said.

The conditions will not be the only thing alien to the visitors though — they would not have come up against too many of the players in the present New Zealand set up.

“The support staff have done a fabulous job on that front,and we are aware of most of their players’ capabilities. But at the end of the day it is up to the players to deliver on the field,” quipped the Indian skipper.

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