New Zealand Cricket (NZC) has apparently ignored coach Mike Hesson's call for "green tops" in the upcoming home series against India and is instead preparing "sporting tracks" for the Auckland and Wellington Tests.
A NZC official told IANS on Thursday that the authorities are keen that pitches not only for Tests but also for the preceding five-match one-day series, beginning January 19, should be challenging batsmen and bowlers alike.
"The series against India is massive for New Zealand cricket. It will be a great challenge to face one of the best teams in the world at home. We certainly would not like to see the match getting over in two days. We got a bigger responsibility to produce good wickets," a top NZC official said, referring to popularity of the series and its financial implications.
The official said to be fair to Hesson, his demand for bowler-friendly wickets stemmed from India's performance overseas in the last couple of years, a record of losing nine of their last 10 Tests. The last, tenth, Test was a draw.
He, however, has a sneaky suspicion that green tops could backfire.
"What if India win the toss and ask New Zealand to bat on a green top? Something like that could go against us. That is why we want wickets challenging both batsmen and bowlers. You also need to take into account that pitches look green here but the grass burns off quickly," the official said.
Their overseas showing notwithstanding, India could take heart from their last visit to New Zealand in 2008-09 when they won a series for the first time since 1967-68.
The official said the pitches in New Zealand offer variety and hoped rain wouldn't play spoilsport in the eagerly awaited battle.
"Every ground in New Zealand is different. You would usually find a dry and slow surface at Hamilton and then there are faster decks."
"Some 10-15 years ago you would only see green pitches in New Zealand, but nowadays the wicket standards have improved a lot, which makes us a better international team. We think New Zealand is good place to tour because of the environments and the pitches are fair."
"There is no point having very green wickets and a team is rolled out for 30 runs, when you are playing a lot of your cricket overseas."
Asked about the timing of the series, the official said: "Preparing wickets is tricky at this time of the year. The heavy rains in the last fortnight have made it difficult for the groundsman to have a the pitch of his liking."
New Zealand beat the West Indies in the recent three-match series and drew against England.
At least one former Australian cricketer, Mark Waugh thinks that the Black Caps would have an edge over India on current form.