India eye rare Test success in New Zealand

Updated: 18 March 2009 08:51 IST

After clinching their maiden ODI series win in NZ, India will now seek to end a 41-year Test drought when they play 1st Test against the Kiwis on Wednesday


After registering their maiden one-day series triumph in New Zealand last week, India will now seek to end a 41-year Test drought when they cross sword with the Kiwis in the first of the three-match series starting here on Wednesday.

Barring the last ODI at Auckland, India ruthlessly dominated the five-match one-day series and if the visitors manage to maintain the same sky-high standard in the longer version as well, Dhoni and his men are almost certain to record India's first Test series victory here since Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi-led team's 3-1 triumph in 1967-68.

Dhoni, however, insists the team would have to start afresh after winning the ODI series and stressed on the need to play consistently well to win the Test series.

"We have to start from scratch again and perform at our best. In Tests you have to play consistent cricket over a period of time. It is not winning one session or two sessions, you have to win more sessions than the opposition in a comprehensive way," Dhoni said.

His opposite number Daniel Vettori admitted India thoroughly outplayed them in the ODI series but felt winning the last one dayer lifted the team morale.

"It was nice for us to finish on a winning note, but we still understand that we have been outplayed and haven't lived up to our own expectations", Vettori said.

"We can take a bit of momentum into the Test series. It's going to be a massive challenge with (Sachin) Tendulkar, (Rahul) Dravid and (VVS) Laxman coming back into the mix," he said.

The track at the Seddon Park looks green and bouncy enough to warm the hearts of the bowlers and New Zealand would bank on their seam bowlers to rein in India's intimidating batting line-up.

The job, however, would not be easy. India had a deplorable tour in 2002-03 - when the highest they could muster was 219 - but things have changed a lot since then and Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Virender Sehwag have the skill and experience to collar the Kiwi attack.

Sehwag has been New Zealand's thorn-in-the-flesh since he landed here and he is not content yet. His Delhi teammate Gautam Gambhir is no dud with the bat either and if they start firing from both ends, Kiwi bowlers would be in for a tough time.

In case the hosts manage to tame the Delhi duo, New Zealand will still have to deal with India's middle order stalwarts Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman, who share nearly 30,000 runs among them.

Down the order, Yuvraj Singh too seems interested in rediscovering himself as a Test batsman, while Dhoni too has matured as a batsman who can belt and graft according to situations.

In the bowling department too, India seems to enjoy the edge with Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma forging a potent new ball pair.

Comeback man Lakshmipathy Balaji is already itching to prove his worth, while Harbhajan Singh could prove quite a handful for the host batsmen with some help from the pitch.

In contrast, the Kiwi batting line-up does not inspire the same awe. Interestingly, Ross Taylor (14), Jesse Ryder (6), Daniel Flynn (9), Tim McIntosh (2) and Brendon McCullum (41) have played barely 72 Tests between them, half the number of matches that Tendulkar (156) has played in.

Much would depend on how the Kiwi bowlers fare against the Indian batsmen.

New Zealand will bank on Franklyn James' ability to swing the ball, while Kyle Mills Iain O'Brien and either Chris Martin or new-find Brent Arnel could form the seam quartet. Vettori could provide fizz and turn in case the quicks fail.

Teams (From):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Laxmipathy Balaji, Munaf Patel, Amit Mishra.

New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (captain), Martin Guptill, Tim McIntosh, Daniel Flynn, Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryde, Brendon McCullum, James Franklin, Kyle Mills, Chris Martin, Iain O Brien, Brent Arnel, Jeetan Patel.

Umpires: Simon Taufel, Ian Gould.

Third umpire: Gary Baxter.

Match referee: Allan Hurst.

Match starts at 3.30 am (IST).

Topics : Cricket India New Zealand Hamilton Masakadza
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