Can India rewrite history in New Zealand?
Given their current form, CricketNDTV.com tries to find out why this team has better chances of excelling in the Kiwi land in comparison with their predecessors.
<p>If there were one place that could be termed India's final frontier it had to be New Zealand. In the past few years, India have recorded some historical series wins against teams like West Indies, England, Pakistan; but victory eluded them in the land of 'Black Caps'. India have just four Test wins in New Zealand. But all of this is now history.</p> <p>Given their current form, <strong>CricketNDTV.com</strong> tries to find out why this team has better chances of excelling in the Kiwi land in comparison with their predecessors.</p>
<p>Unlike the previous teams, this team oozes with exceptional talent and 'never-say-die' attitude. Each and every member of the team has the potential to win a game single-handedly. No score seems unattainable, no game looks lost till the last ball is bowled and the last run's scored.</p> <p>And this transformation has come under a new leader. They say a captain is as good as his team. But this team is as good as its captain. MS Dhoni's phenomenal rise in the cricket world might amaze many, but the braveheart skipper has everything that's required to make it big. More than the talent, it's his temperament that makes him what he is. An instinctive and composed leader, Dhoni is not scared of taking risks. He has instilled security and composure in the dressing room and at the same time knows how to keep everyone on toes and bring the best out of them. </p> <p>But this time, Dhoni and his boys have entered the unknown territory. In the present squad only a few players have played in the mysterious climate of New Zealand and that too without much success.</p>
<p>In contemporary cricket, India boasts of unarguably the best opening pair in Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. After the opening pairs of Ganguly-Tendulkar and Sehwag-Tendulkar, the Delhi duo of Sehwag and Gambhir have given the Indian side a settled look. Unlike the earlier times when India had different openers for different versions, <a href="http://cricket.ndtv.com/cricket/ndtvcricket/playerprofile.aspx?player_ID=270&type=main">Sehwag</a> and Gambhir open the innings in all three formats and that too successfully.</p> <p>Both the players, who also open the innings for their state, had issues with consistency but now they are blooming innings after innings. The two Delhiites are aggressive but Gambhir happily plays the second fiddle when his partner goes for the kill. They compliment each other well without losing their individuality and natural aggression. They enjoy each other's company and understand each other's game too well, and that's evident when they run between the wickets. They communicate silently and effectively.</p> <p>The openers have an average of 58.05 in Tests while they enjoy an average of 51.26 in the one-dayers. Even in the Twenty20 matches they score approximately 40 runs per innings. In the recent victories, the duo played a crucial role. They laid foundations of those victories and their role in New Zealand will be no different.</p> <p>All they need to do is to curb the urge to play attacking shots and see off the initial overs to get a hang of the seam and swing.</p>
<p>After the openers, follows a terrific and terrifying middle-order. A batting line-up that possesses the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni along with Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan in the middle-order is strong enough to make the opposition shudder. Each of these players is a match winner in his own way.</p> <p>And to bolster this already solid batting line-up, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman join them for the Tests. These batsmen have tackled world-class bowlers with aplomb but when it comes to New Zealand, no other batsman except Dravid has had much success. </p> <p>The weather poses a bigger challenge to the Indian batters apart from the Kiwi bowlers. Strong gusts of wind and moist conditions make it difficult for the batsmen to understand the line and length of the ball. When a bowler runs with the direction of the wind, the speed of the delivery increases whereas it holds back a bit and swings a little more than expected if the bowler moves against the wind. You judge it wrong and you find yourself back in the dressing room.</p> <p>Solution? Adaptation is the key. The sooner the players adapt to the conditions, the better.</p>
<p>During the 2002-03 tour of New Zealand, the pitches resembled the lush green outfield. The batsmen struggled throughout the series and went down miserably. However, they may not take that risk this time as the lethal duo of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma has taken the world by storm in the last two years.</p> <p>Since his commendable comeback, Zaheer has emerged as one of the best swing bowlers of recent times. He demolished the English castle in 2007 with his swing bowling and tamed Australia and Sri Lanka in their backyards. </p> <p>The lanky Ishant Sharma has taken his cue from his senior pro and gained new heights in a very short span. He was instrumental in India's recent triumphs even when the conditions did not suit his bowling. </p> <p>To add zing to the pace attack are Irfan Pathan, rookie Dhawal Kulkarni, Munaf Patel and Praveen Kumar. The Black Caps understand the green top ploy might backfire with the conditions favouring the Indian pacers.</p> <p>One thing that the Indian bowlers need to keep in mind is strong winds are not only troublesome for the batsmen but also for the bowlers. It's not an easy task to control the line, length and speed of the ball from both the ends. Since the grounds are comparatively small in New Zealand, the margin of error is minimal. One bad ball... and you may see it sailing into the crowd.</p>
<p>In the recent series against Australia, New Zealand offered flat and dry pitches and one doesn't know what is in store for the Indians. With captain Daniel Vettori being a spinner himself, the wickets may have something for the tweakers.</p> <p>After Anil Kumble's retirement from international cricket, seasoned off-spinner Harbhajan Singh leads the spin department. He has the company of leg-spinner Amit Mishra in Tests, while Pragyan Ojha will be his spin twin in ODIs. </p> <p>While Mishra and Pragyan have not played international cricket against the Kiwis, Harbhajan too has little experience against them and that too is not something to brag about. But given the form and recent performances of the spin trio, hopes are high.</p>