Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Saturday, ruled out experimenting too much with his settled team in the series against New Zealand but said the five-match rubber should serve as a good exposure to some of his players before the World Cup. (1st ODI preview)
Since Yuvraj Singh is not in the side, there is question mark over the number four spot in the batting order. Dhoni was non-committal about Suresh Raina coming up the order, a role he did not perform with much success against Australia in October.
"We will see what suits us best and then we will move ahead. As of now, after the Greg Chappell era, experimentation is something we have done away with. We don't really change too many things anymore. We will give chances to a few players and hopefully they will rise up to the occasion and accept the challenges that they are pushed into," Dhoni said ahead of the series-opener on Sunday. (Also read: Dhoni not taking New Zealand lightly | Shane Bond warns India ahead of 1st ODI)
Dhoni said the series would be a good for experience since the World Cup will be hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand.
"It's good exposure for our players who have not played in New Zealand before. In the bowling department particularly, there are some new additions to the squad. Wind will be a factor here and when you are exposed to different conditions, you work hard on your game.
"So it will be a good experience for them. In turn, it will be good for the team because we will have players who have already played in these conditions and particularly at venues where we will be playing the 2015 World Cup. So it should be a good tour for us," said the Indian captain.
Indian team arrived in New Zealand almost a full week ahead of the first ODI and it gave them ample time to reflect on the conditions here and prepare for the month-long trip comprising of five ODIs and two Tests.
"Our preparation has been good. We were given very good facilities. The ground where we practiced, Nelson Park, we were given a centre wicket which was good practice. Net bowlers were also made available to us. We have also looked into each and every aspect of our game, not only batting and bowling, but also fielding because it will play a vital role," Dhoni pointed out.
"When you are batting you have to pick a particular side where you are looking to play your shots. The straight boundaries are quite long and there is a strong breeze, so hitting down the ground will add ten yards. Bowling in this wind can be tiring and also you need to use its direction well. The grounds are not big, so the fielders need to judge where to stand so that batsmen do not steal doubles from you. We need to be intelligent about how to adapt to conditions here," Dhoni added, talking about the various aspects that the team has been working on.
Unlike many grounds in New Zealand, McLean Park doesn't use a drop-in pitch although the stadium is used for rugby matches as well. Since it is the off-season here for rugby, the pitch for Sunday's game was ready ahead of schedule.
"The wicket looks good. It is a dry and hard pitch, well suited for ODI cricket. Fast bowlers will be able to get that extra bounce. Intelligent bowlers will be able to use wind to their advantage. Normally the ball swings for 10-15 overs, but here the swing might be prolonged a bit. Our strength in bowling is not pace, but how smartly we can use the conditions. The bowlers will have something from the pitch for sure, but once the batsmen settle down, they will love the pace and bounce on offer," said Dhoni.
India will be looking to defend their number one ranking and for that they need to beat New Zealand, who are ranked eighth currently. It is easier said than done, away from the sub-continent, especially since the hosts have some momentum coming into this contest after beating the West Indies in the two T20s and holding them at 2-2 in the ODIs.
"New Zealand have a nice bunch of players who contribute in all departments, be it with the bat and ball, and their fielding is quite good too. They have always done well in major tournaments and are a fantastic side to play against.
"They have quite a few new players who bring their own strengths to the table. But if we concentrate on them too much, sometimes you can tend to over plan things. It is important to focus on our strengths and work on our weaknesses," the Indian skipper signed off, sounding cautious as well as optimistic.