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The New Zealand Code – Can India crack it ?

February 21, 2009

The Indian cricket team has arrived at New Zealand yesterday for a 40 day tour. India has been in great form of late , but the statements from the players and supporting staff have been rather cautious.The captain Dhoni has said that India are not the favorites.Man to man India can beat New Zealand hands down. Then why such hype over this tour ? This is because India has a history of poor shows in that country.Why is New Zealand such a tough tour ? Several factors are there.

One can not find more contrasting teams than India and New Zealand.Traditionally, Indian players have been flamboyant, highly talented and rather loose whereas New Zealand players have been not so attractive or talented but very disciplined . The wickets in India are good for batting and rarely have anything for the faster bowlers but offer a lot of help to spinners.In New Zealand the wickets are spicy (but only when India is the opposition) and virtually nothing for spinners.

New Zealand is a fighting team and always raises its game and has a history of frustrating better teams. Another important factor is that India does not tour New Zealand often enough.During the last decade India has toured New Zealand just once. In the same time the team has visited Australia thrice and other major test playing nations twice. The reasons are financial.A tour to New Zealand does not generate much interest in India and BCCI is all about money. The only way to get better at playing in conditions so hostile is to play often there , but India rarely gets the chance.And when the Indian team does go there, the tour is usually short – just two tests last time- which I feel is ridiculous.The conditions are so different that by the time India get used to them the tour is over and a humiliation has been handed out. This time the situation is slightly better there are three tests but a practice game has been sacrificed.So how will India fare this time. ?

The selectors have done their best to make it difficult for India.They have tried to please as many people as possible rather than plan a strategy and select a team to fit the plan.They have taken five fast bowlers for both ODIS and tests. Ishant , Zaheer and Munaf have been included in both test and ODI teams.Praveen and Irfan are in the ODI team but not in the test team and it is the other way around with Dhawal Kulkarni and Balaji. It seems that the Indian team wants a seam bowling all rounder for ODIs and Irfan is the most likely candidate for now though his bowling has been pretty ordinary in recent times.No problems with Praveen’s selection for ODIs either.But what is Balaji doing in the test team ? At his pace (he bowls at the same pace at which Ishant bowls his slower ball ) , he is not going to threaten most international batsmen.He is also not in the ODI squad. Suppose Munaf Patel gets injured after the first test , ( which is very likely since he is as fit as Bradman at 90 ) who will India play ? Obviously either Kulkarni or Balaji ,but both would not have played a single game.In this era there are little or no practice games where you can test your bench strength ,it is important to use the opportunity you get.I feel India need to play five bowlers in ODIs there as Sehwag ,Yuvraj and other part timers will be useless in those flat wickets and small grounds.That provides an opportunity to test the third bowler for the tests.With the situation above that opportunity has been wasted. I feel Praveen Kumar should have taken Balaji’s positon for the tests.I feel this because the third seamer is vital as Zaheer and Ishant can not bowl all day.

Even with this selection issue ,I feel the tour will not be as one sided as last time .One advantage for India is that the ODIs are played first. ODI wickets are almost becoming very much the same throughout the world. So, fingers crossed they won’t be green tops. This gives a chance for India to gain some confidence by winning a few games and also get used to the cold. I think New Zealand will be competitive even on flat wickets but India will come through 3-2.

Now, India has two good fast bowlers in Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma .The third seamer is a problem, but if Munaf Patel does not get injured the attack can be deadly. So, the idea of giving green tops can backfire on New Zealand.Given this India can win at least one test if not more.Also, Indian batsmen reserve at least one terrible show every away series .For proof we can look back at the second innings of the Sydney test in Australia and the second innings of the final test in South Africa.So, I think India will lose one test.And I predict the New Zealand weather to win a test as well (many games were washed out in the recent series between the West Indies and New Zealand).And this makes my prediction of the test series as 1-1.I hope I am proved wrong and India do far better in the test series.