India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni feels that the upcoming tour of New Zealand will be an ideal exposure trip for his young brigade as it prepares to defend the World Cup, which will be held in just over a year's time in the Trans-Tasman nations. (MS Dhoni looks to improve his performance during New Zealand tour)
"As far as experience is concerned, yes the next World Cup will be in Australia and New Zealand, so most of the players will get the feel, about the wickets. When I first went to New Zealand, the fielding position was very confusing. The shape of the grounds are very unusual," Dhoni said during his team's pre-departure press conference.
"We had to keep fine leg very deep and from a wicket keeping angle it looked like it was square leg. So it takes time to adjust. Overall, it would be a good exposure," Dhoni said at the pre-departure conference in Mumbai on Saturday.
He predicted an exciting series in New Zealand and said that some of the matches could be high scoring, especially with the new ICC rules. "The grounds in New Zealand are different. In most places, there are drop-in pitches. It has been seen that the matches can be high scoring, especially with the new rule changes. When we went last time, we had played according to the old rules," he said.
"But it will depend on what kind of wicket we are playing the match. If it is a flat wicket, small ground, and if there is a good partnership, the batsmen bat well, then in that scenario you can see that there could be lot of high-scoring matches," Dhoni added.
"In their team, they have lot of interesting talent, there are many new players who are doing well and it is also their home condition. So I think overall, it looks exciting. It looks like an exciting series. Let's hope for the best," he said. The Indian captain also said that the previous series in South Africa yielded a lot of positives for his team.
Following the twin series loss in South Africa, he refuted the general suggestion that the Indian team is a lion at home and a lamb abroad.
"We had done well in New Zealand (2009) and South Africa (2010-11) before we lost in England (2011) and Australia (2011-12). It is unfortunate that the tag (lambs abroad) is affixed to us. But as a team we want to do well. We did well in the two Tests against South Africa. Yes we did lose the second Test (Durban) because we played bad cricket for just two and half hours and ended up being on the receiving end.
"There will be challenges. It is very important to do well at home. It is very important to win those games and at the same time try to do well outside. Other countries too have lost overseas. But very often we have the tagline of lambs abroad because we are a team from the subcontinent. We don't talk about some other countries that have not done well. Yes, we have a slightly bigger challenge. More than the pace, the bounce is an issue," Dhoni said.
He defended the team's performance in South Africa and said they played poorly and paid the price for it in the second Test at Durban. "In fact, if you look at the South Africa series also, we played well in the Test series. We lost the second Test because of the two to two-and-a-half-hour session, we played really bad cricket, because of which, we were on the receiving end. Apart from that, our tours have been good. But we are seeing that because of the last series we played in England and Australia," he said.
The Indian skipper also pointed out when the teams from outside the sub-continent lose matches in India, they don't get the tag. He also stressed on the importance of valuing home conditions and said that it is important to hold fort in the home conditions.
"World over what we have seen is it is important to hold fort in your home conditions, and at the same time trying to do well outside as well. You will have to start valuing your heritage. When teams from outside the sub-continent lose, they don't start making turning tracks," he said.
Dhoni also said that the team needs the tail-enders to contribute, if not with the runs then at least with the time spent at the crease. "If you see how cricket is moving, your 8,9,10 and 11 have to contribute, because if they don't spend enough time in the middle, you also end up wasting one batsman-- maybe a number seven or a number six batsman--so that is one area we have to do slightly better."
"Even if they are not scoring runs, if they can hang around a bit of time, the batsman at the other end can score. We saw Ajinkya (Rahane) play in the last innings, something like that. If that is not the case, it becomes difficult for batsman at the other end," he said adding that it would add valuable 30-50 runs to the team total.