The Indian cricket team arrived in Napier on Monday for a five-match ODI series against New Zealand starting January 19. Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said the tour will be a learning experience ahead of the 2015 ICC World Cup to be co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia.
With several members touring New Zealand for the first time, Dhoni feels, the ODI series will give valuable information to players who are expected to make the World Cup squad. "It's good exposure for them," Dhoni said. "The grounds here are a very different shape and it's difficult to exactly pinpoint the fielding positions. They are quite different to where you usually place your fielders. Overall it'll be a fantastic tour for all the guys."
Dhoni is backing his young team that recently lost the ODI and Test series in South Africa. Saying the Kiwi conditions will favour seamers, Dhoni feels the Indian bowlers are capable of doing a good job. "Overall I'm quite happy with the bowlers. Again it really depends on the conditions. But if the wicket is favouring the fast bowlers we've definitely got bowlers who can make the most out of the new ball," he said.
The Indian captain is aware that New Zealand have a crop of new-ball bowlers who have done well in recent times. Dhoni says New Zealand will be a tough team at home and the series will be a challenging one. "New Zealand are a fantastic side. They've got good bowlers and their recent performances have been really good. And especially at home they'll know the conditions better than us and for some who have not played here it will be a challenge.
"We're not taking New Zealand lightly, we'll give them the respect they should get and we know their experienced players are dangerous enough to win games by themselves."
Meanwhile, Dhoni's deputy and the team's leading batsman Virat Kohli is eager to go out and play. "Napier welcomes us with pleasant weather and great scenery. Cant wait to get onto the field," tweeted Kohli after arriving in Napier. The Indians took a connecting flight from Auckland for Napier after arriving in the country from Mumbai.
Napier welcomes us with pleasant weather and great scenery. Cant wait to get onto the field. pic.twitter.com/flOItd9r5h— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) January 13, 2014
The series will start here on Sunday and conclude on January 31 in Wellington with the other three games set to be held at Hamilton (January 22 and 28) and Auckland (January 25). The Test series will be held after that. The opening match is scheduled from February 6-10 (Auckland) followed by the second and final match in Wellington (February 14-18).
The tourists will play a two-day warm-up game on February 2 and 3 at Whangarei ahead of the Tests. Test specialists Cheteshwar Pujara, Zaheer Khan, Murali Vijay and Umesh Yadav will join the squad later.
This is India's ninth visit to New Zealand for a bilateral contest and their first since 2008-09 which they won 1-0.
(With PTI inputs)