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Kiwis need Ponting to repeat India-dose to think of win! Suneer Chowdhary Column
by Suneer Chowdhary
Nov 18, 2008
The Border-Gavaskar trophy has been squandered, a new day has dawned, but the Aussies cannot stop yapping, and exploring and trying to discover newer excuses for their series loss. In plain terms, the Aussies did not deserve to win - forget the series, even a single match - and the Indians ensured that it was exactly what transpired. So, while it is only a couple of days to the start of a reasonably vital test series between Australia and New Zealand, the verbal barbs continue to be aimed at anything remotely Indian.

Why one calls this series vital is simply because after being crash-landed by the Indians, the Aussies would look to return to their winning ways. Ricky Ponting had come under fire for his inexplicable tactics, and would need to use this series to commence with the process of sealing the critics' lips. And in order to achieve this, he would only welcome the return of the Queenslander Andrew 'Roy' Symonds, who returns after having served his time out of the team. All of a sudden, Roy's re-entry means that the Aussies have two all-rounders – Shane Watson been the other – to choose from, and it wouldn't be too surprising to have both of them on view. With Stuart Clark having fully recovered from his shoulder injury, and Jason Krezja having bowled the way he did in the Nagpur test match against India, the stormy weather would have caused enough storms in the selectors' mind over selectorial matters. There are three empty slots for the aforesaid four cricketers, and it would be an interesting if Krejza did not get a look-in. He may then go on to enter the record books for having scalped the most number of wickets in a test, only to be dropped in the next one!

The one big thing going in the home team's favour is the quality of their opponents. Currently, New Zealand looks to be in a transition stage, after having lost few of their ace cricketers like Bond and Marshall to the Indian Cricket League, but then, the Kiwis have not looked like champion material for some time. In fact, if one were to be a little blunt, it was difficult to distinguish between the two sides on their recent tour to Bangladesh. In the end, the only difference that saw the Kiwis scrape past the hosts was their skipper Daniel Vettori, who kept being the tourists' knight in the shining armour amidst the ruins. In fact, the above becomes an understatement of sorts, when one looks at the statistics; he topped the bowling charts, and came a close second in the batting!

The tour game against the New South Wales - which the Kiwis went on to lose easily - again had Vettori scalp a four-wicket haul, to go with his second inning half century.

And this is why, it is highly surprising that the usually prickly Aussie cricketers and the corresponding strategists - coaches, managers, media and any other Australian who has ever followed a game of cricket in their lives - have not picked up on the Kiwi skipper yet.

Some of the press conference statements by the Kiwi coach, John Bracewell either point to a thoroughly confused man facing an acid test, or a guy practicing philosophy as one of his avocations. The manner he speaks of his wards' nervousness and then makes it sound totally commonplace is confusing, to say the least. But then, to be fair to the man, there haven't been too many positives that he can look ahead to; what with the potentially aggressive batsman in Brendon McCullum struggling to get fit after his foot injury, while the rest of them - with the exception of Jamie How - getting out rather cheaply in the tour game. McCullum did speak about hurting the vulnerable Aussies, in a press conference, but a look at the two line-ups and history, makes it sound like the squeak of a brave mouse. Jacob Oram's untimely injury in Bangladesh have left the tourists with the tag that the Aussies had very recently adorned in India; of being one of the weakest teams to have toured the country!

To add fuel to the fire, or water in the sinking ship, the tourists' record against the once-mighty Australians is hardly enviable. The Kiwis have won only two matches on this land, after having toured on nine previous occasions, and both these games were in that 1985-86 series when one Richard Hadlee had ruled the roost. Since then, they have struggled on most occasions, and with the kind of team that they have brought this time, any better would need a stupendous set of performances by the Black Caps.

The next edition of Ashes may be a few eons away; yet, one gets a sense that this series could very well be a pre-cursor to the 2009 version of the world's oldest rivalry. That Ponting would need to win very convincingly against a very weak side - they are ranked seventh in the ICC ranking - is a conclusion as foregone as the impregnability of the security at Fort Knox. Yet, many an eye would be focussing on Ponting's movements and his on and off the field strategies, not to mention the over-rates that played an unusually huge part in the series loss to India.

The Aussies may wipe the Kiwis out in the series, but in doing so, they would also need to wipe out the traces of the un-Australian like performance that they had exhibited in India. For New Zealand, nothing short of a miracle can help cover the gulf between the two sides.
 
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