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Kiwi'd by India - Partab Ramchand Column
by Partab Ramchand
Mar 08, 2009
The touring Indian cricketers have settled down nicely in New Zealand after an uncertain start and though these are still early days one can already see them make enough progress to win both the ODI and Test series. That certainly would constitute feathers in the caps of MS Dhoni and his men - not to forget coach Gary Kirsten- given the fact that the Indian record in Kiwiland is quite unenviable.

India has not won a Test in New Zealand for 33 years. During that period they have played 13 Tests, lost six and drawn seven. They have not won a bilateral or a one day competition in New Zealand. On the last tour six years ago they touched the nadir losing both Tests tamely and also going down 5-2 in the ODI series.

This tour then was to be the supreme test for Dhoni's leadership qualities and the technical skill as well as the temperament of the players. So far they have performed admirably the back to back defeats in the Twenty20 internationals notwithstanding. These can be put down to lack of adequate preparation in rather alien conditions. But now having acclimatized themselves to the conditions they certainly are having the better of the ODI matches. I for one cannot see the hosts winning the series from a position of two down. It is not that New Zealand are not a good team but the manner in which the Indians are getting their act together must make them firm favourites to take the series comfortably. And with the momentum they have achieved so far I am of the view that they can take this further into the Test series and win that too marking their first triumph since their maiden visit to New Zealand in 1968.

What has really impressed me in the touring squad is the flexibility of the team, particularly the batting. Virender Sehwag is the right person to get them off to a flying start at the top of the order while Sachin Tendulkar might not be everyone's choice as his partner. But the main strength lies in the middle order. The quartet of Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir have the credentials to bat anywhere in the order according to the situation. Any of them - and I also include Tendulkar in the argument - can bat successfully at any position between No 3 and No 6. And Dhoni a captain whose middle name must certainly be innovation is always ready to chop and change fully aware that he has the arsenal that can make a difference. He himself has come in at No 3, keeps in mind the left - right combination as a handy proposition and when runs are required in the slog overs he has also promoted Yusuf Pathan up the order. And the swashbuckling utility man with the broad shoulders and the big hits has willingly and smilingly obliged.

Dhoni knows that among the top six batsmen even if two come off with big scores the chances are that India will have 300 plus in a fifty over match. In the first ODI at Napier with three batsmen coming off the Indians posted a winning score of 273 for four in just 38 overs. Of course the Indian batsmen would be quite pleased to discover that the pitch conditions are quite different from those encountered six years before. They are ideal surfaces for batting and not for nothing did Daniel Vettori express apprehension on the eve of the series about having to encounter Dhoni and Sehwag "on our small grounds which is a scary thought." The New Zealand captain is fast discovering that his apprehensions were not unfounded. All it needs is for the rain to subside and it could well be an Indian summer in New Zealand.

The batting has always been Indian cricket's traditional strength but it is safe to assume that the bowling will not let the team down. It has enough variety, skill and experience to trouble the free scoring New Zealand batsmen. And while it will not be prudent to judge by what one saw at Napier with the home team's innings reduced to virtually a 20 over bash I would like to think that the bowling line-up has the credentials to both bottle up the New Zealanders and also take wickets should the batsmen try and take too many liberties.
 
More Views by Partab Ramchand
  India vs Australia - Batting and bowling worries for the hosts
  Future of Indian cricket is in good hands
  Future bright for Irfan Pathan
  Basil D'Oliveira was a mighty fine utility player
  Ashwin is a stayer, not a sprinter!
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