That was a pretty stressful experience, “ tweeted Jimmy Neesham, who was picked by the Delhi Daredevils for Rs 1 crore in the IPL auction. “Absolutely gutted,” was Mitchell McClenaghan’s reaction after failing to attract any bidders.
Neesham is in New Zealand’s 13-man squad for the second Test as injury cover. McClenaghan is not in the long-format team. Their experiences perhaps won’t have any impact on the game against India beginning on Friday.
But imagine others who were part of the auction and who are likely to start. Imagine Hamish Rutherford.
The New Zealand Test opener was one of the players who went unsold on Day One. Rejection can motivate some, but it can be emotionally debilitating for others. Rutherford may be picked again, but he will have to wait and see on Thursday, on the eve of the Test match.
This is how it is, then; Test cricket, supposedly the pre-eminent form of the game, will be played directly under T20’s shadow at the Basin reserve, a venue steeped in history and traditions.
Meanwhile, the Indians should supposedly be in a better frame of mind, as most of them didn’t go under the hammer and hence didn’t undergo any stress. Only the four pacers, namely Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohamad Shami, were in the fray and they attracted reasonable to good interest.
However, there has been plenty of distraction for MS Dhoni and Co, thanks to the IPL fixing report. The match, the setting, in a way, will be a reflection of the wider state of affairs on cricket.
The cricket itself is likely to be very intense, if the weather permits, looking all set to pick up from where the two teams left off at Eden Park. The pitch is ominously green, barely distinguishable from the outfield.
Rarely does it happen that a curator manages to satisfy both teams but it looks like Brett Sipthorpe has. New Zealand coach Mike Hesson demanded green tracks for Tests after the flat pitches for the ODIs, while Dhoni also said he was more comfortable with lively tracks when playing outside the subcontinent.
It gave his fast bowlers a better chance, Dhoni reasoned after the first Test, which India lost but not before skittling New Zealand for 105 in the second innings under windy conditions.
‘Too windy to swing’
In windy Wellington, at the lush green Basin, will it descend to a four-innings bowl out match, then? Not necessarily, thinks Tim Southee.
“If it’s too windy or gusty, it is hard to swing,” he opines. “When it’s a nice, still day, it tends to swing a little hit more. But those days are few and far between. It is one of those grounds where wind is a massive factor. You have to get used to it quickly.”
At any rate, it’s not an unplayable ground for batsmen. In the last match here, the West Indies did get bowled out for less than 200 in both innings, but New Zealand made 441.
“It has had good pace and bounce in it this summer and basically we’re aiming for exactly what we had for the West Indies one,” Sipthorpe was quoted as saying in the local media.
“That was nice and bouncy and had a little bit of nip around, which suits the seamers. It just depends on what the weather brings us. If we have to take a little more off we will, but we don’t want to lose our pace and grass cover is pace. We’ll do everything we can to try to keep as much grass on as we possibly can.”
It will give India some confidence that in 2009 they nearly won here. But what negates this is that the team are on a massive away-loss roll. They have suffered defeat in 10 of the last 11 on-the-road matches.
Brendon McCullum will be keen to make it 11 out of 12. Dhoni may have bought him in the IPL, it won’t mean any concession in the Test, however.
Live on Sony six at 3 am on Friday
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