Napier:With a historic Test series victory in sight, the rampaging Indian cricket team takes on a demoralised New Zealand in the second Test here on Thursday aiming to end a 41-year wait for triumph in the antipodes.
Leading 1-0 in the three-match series, the Indian team, which has been decimating one foreign bastion after another since the conquest of Bulawayo in 2001, is high on confidence and will be keen to wrap up the series.
Neither pace nor bounce, neither grass nor seam have held back Mahendra Singh Dhoni's confidence-personified legion.
In recent times, India have trounced the West Indies (Trinidad, 2002); beaten Pakistan in their backyard (2004-05), humbled the Australians in their outback (Adelaide 2003-04 and Perth 2007-08), bearded the English lion in its own den (2007) and tamed the South Africans (2007).
Interestingly, if India (118 points) win this Test they could possibly replace South Africa (119) at the number two position in the ICC Test rankings.
Australia are comfortably perched at the top with 128 points in their bag.
The ultimate test of this on-a-roll Indian team's character would be a series triumph here. If the current bunch can't achieve what Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi's men did in 1967-68, India will certainly find it tough to conquer the Kiwis in their own den when the Sachin Tendulkars, the Rahul Dravids, the VVS Laxmans and the Zaheer Khans are gone.
Tendulkar has been on a high on this tour, scoring big hundreds in both forms of the game (163 retd hurt in the third ODI at Christchurch) and 160 in the first Test at Hamilton. Encouragingly for India, apart from Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Gambhir are on song as well. Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni provide the thrust to the middle order.
Not to be forgotten is Virender Sehwag. The opener, whose last 11 hundreds have been in the excess of 150, has psyched the Kiwis so much that they dread to see him at the square. Having been run out in the first game for 24, Sehwag will be eager to score on this small ground. Like Sehwag, Zaheer has also scared the Kiwis.
He has frazzled them with seam, swing and cut, something which the Kiwis have comprehensively failed to do. If the left-arm quick strikes early in the innings here, as he did last week, the inexperienced Kiwi batting would be in disarray.
Ishant Sharma lacked zing in the last game, where he tended to go astray while searching for pace. But now, the pacer has found his rhythm back.
If this deck has the pace and bounce that the Kiwis seek, the 20-year-old Ishant should be more dreadful than Kyle Mills and Iain O'Brien.
Then there is Harbhajan Singh. Despite not being at his best, the off-spinner has already cast a web around the Kiwi batsmen, who hesitated to step out of the crease to smother his threat.
He may have returned with a six-wicket haul in the second innings at Hamilton, but he would admit that he didn't bowl as well as he could.
If the Kiwis don't stand up to the challenge, they would be driving their already disillusioned supporters farther away.
When Daniel Vettori's men crushed India 2-0 in the Twenty20s, they were hailed as heroes, but since losing the ODI series 1-3 and the first Test by 10 wickets, they are being branded gutless losers.
Having experienced the steep highs and the abysmal lows in the series, Vettori is desperate that his men produce something extraordinary in the second Test at the Mclean Park, starting on Thursday.
Unfortunately, Vettori lacks the arsenal to quell the Indian insurgence. He doesn't have batsmen, who can last 100 overs or more in an innings.
Besides, he doesn't have bowlers of the Shane Bond ilk who can run through the Indian batting line-up.
To make matters worse, his fielders have been far from impressive, spilling catches which they have caught blind-folded on better days and letting the cherry slip through them in the outfield.
Desperate that he is, Vettori could look to the grounds man to prepare a wicket which would have a lot more pace and bounce than the one at Seddon Park.
But he is unlikely to ask for a seaming track as he is aware that the Indians are a lot more effective in this aspect of the game, than his four-pronged pace attack is.
New Zealand's aspirations of asserting themselves on a bouncy deck in the first Test had evaporated within the first session should remind him of what befell his batsmen, who virtually clambered over each other to leave their side tottering at 60 for six.