Posted by: rajeshkannan | March 18, 2009

New Zealand v India Test Series Preview

dravidIn the past two years, every tour of the Indian team has seeed like a valedictory lap of honour for the fabled middle order. I’m not talking about results – India have been a tad inconsistent on their excursions – but the general feeling of “this is the last time they visit these shores”.

Saurav Ganguly has retired but he kickstarted the process of burying India’s overseas ghosts. In the last five years, India have drawn in Australia, won series in West Indies and England, and won a test in South Africa, all noteworthy achievements. And you would be foolish to bet against the preternaturally composed Dhoni and his team breaking their 42 year jinx in New Zealand.

Sachin  Tendulkar is not so much raging against the dying of the light as coaxing it to live on for another day. It seems a fait accompli that he will produce nuggety gems when he plays, with the odd hundred thrown in. Maybe VVS might be persuaded into thinking he’s on the other side of the Tasman Sea – but I fear for him and Dravid, as they have both looked a bit circumspect early on in their innings in recent times. If the ball moves around, as I’m sure it will, India’s middle order could be in a pickle. Of course,the score might already be 400 by then, given the havoc Sehwag and Gambhir can wreak.

I worry also about the imbalance in the bowling attack, despite the abilities of India’s new ball duo. Munaf Patel will likely slot in, but it’s been ages since he played a test match, and his fitness is suspect at best. I’d prefer Balaji to play – he swings the ball beautifully, and could be more of a threat on these pitches. Never in any preview have I failed to remind Harbhajan to slow…it…down…and this time is no different.

New Zealand may have an uphill task but they have a few stars of their own. Ross Taylor is imperious in the shorter versions, and the Kiwis desperately need him to shine in the real version as well. And though New Zealand didn’t really have a choice but to support Jesse Ryder through his cricketing adolescence – quality cricketers are worth their weight in gold here, even if it’ll take all the bullion in the land to balance against the generously proportioned Ryder – it’s a gamble that is reaping dividends now.

The captain has an unenviable task – in the recent past, he has seemed to carry his team on his own, and while that may work against Bangladesh, their neighbours are another matter altogether. Vettori is a great bowler in ODIs, but he’ll have to change into wicket taking mode to make a difference. Chris Martin’s selection does help (not the batting, no sir) as he has the nous to use the conditions, and a bit more pace than Mills and O’Brien.

It’s usually hazardous to predict India’s fortunes in an away series these days (a huge improvement from the guaranteed defeats of the pre-Ganguly era) but I will go out on a limb and say that this series will end 2-1 to either side. Sadly for the hosts, the second team in that equation is the weather, not the Black Caps.

I can’t end this preview without mentioning the New Zealand cricket board’s hospitality in allowing six of the Indian test playing squad to play in the domestic tourney. It’s an incredible gesture, and one that Vettori will probably curse if Dravid or Laxman grind them down, but no praise is high enough for the board. India have always started poorly on the road, and playing no practice matches in alien conditions is usually a recipe for disaster for India. You can’t but compare the New Zealand board with India’s own petty mandarins who insist on excommunicating every bacterium that has every been within a five mile radius of the ICL. Power does corrupt, and it’s an ugly sight to see the BCCI hypocritically treading down the same autocratic path it has decried in the past.

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Responses

  1. I doubt the Black caps will win one Test, India are too strong in every department. Honestly, I think NZ will need rain to force any of the matches into the fifth day.

  2. that’s what I meant. 2-1 to either side, meaning either India wins 1 and the weather wins 2, or India wins 2 and the weather wins 1. So either 1-0 or 2-0 India

  3. http://blogs.livemint.com/blogs/silly_point/archive/2009/03/18/india-should-aim-for-a-ruthless-whitewash.aspx

    Good preview. India should sweep the series if they want to think of themselves as #1

    I live at Livemint now

  4. I watched the first session and India needed to do no more than put the ball on or about off stump and it did for the Kiwis. Splendid fightback by Dan and Jesse (that I missed) but NZ needed 400 to make a game of it.

    Complacency and the weather are India’s problems on this tour.

  5. Excellent RK,

    The last paragraph made the article

  6. Yes Dement – this sort of thing http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=10561441 gives the old carve up of the Imperial Cricket Council a good name.

  7. Dravid and Tendulkar are playing now, and they have 23,013 test runs between them. This HAS to be the highest aggregate runs for any batting pair ever, right?

  8. It would be Rajesh and when they retire soon they are going to leave a gaping hole in India’s batting.


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