The New Zealand side has been as unpredictable as the roads of Mumbai. On a given day, they will be thrashed by Bangladesh 4-0; but on a certain day, they will beat South Africa in a World Cup quarter final! Quite unpredictable! Aren’t they? It’s this high level of inconsistency, which has always disappointed their fans. However, the Kiwis can never be written off with ease, and likewise, stating that India will have the upper hand in the series for sure, is a little premature.
New Zealand will begin this tour with a boost of confidence. Less than a week ago, they thrashed the T20 World Champions, with utmost ease. The recently concluded West Indies series was a major success for the Kiwis. They outplayed them in all possible departments. Whats more? In an ODI altered by rain, Corey Anderson, broke Shahid Afridi’s record for the quickest ton in an ODI. That was one hell of an achievement.
However, the Indian and the West Indian teams are poles apart. New Zealand will be hosting the world champions for the first time since mid 2009. In between, they toured India a couple of times, only to be left humiliated. They would surely want to return the favour back to India. In that 2009 campaign, Jesse Ryder, was the sparkling star for the men in black. He scored a ‘daddy-hundred’, a double in one of the tests, and Indian bowlers always found it difficult to contain the southpaw. This campaign against India too will be really special for Jesse. This will be his first full fledged series in more than two years. He surely would be itching to reiterate his heroics against India.
The tourists on the other hand will begin this tour, with hopes of positivity. The Indian team last won a test series away from home soil in 2011, against the West Indies. What followed ahead of them in overseas tests was nothing short of torture. This Indian team though looks determined and well settled. They gave South Africa a run for their money in the tests. The first test at Wanderers is branded as “epic” by several greats. The way fortunes fluctuated from one side to another was simply jaw-dropping. The second test at Durban, which India lost, could be blamed by India upon their luck. On the first day, they were well placed at 180-1 in 60 overs, when bad light ceased the play. The next day, the Indian batsmen were massacred by the ‘Steyn-Gun’. Had the bad light not occurred, then who knows! After the end of the first day, the score could have easily been 300 odd for 2 or 3 at most. The outcome would have been completely different then.
For India, the only issue could be the experience issue. Barring MS Dhoni, no one in the top seven has played even a single test in the country. The conditions too will be a little different than South Africa. The bounce may not trouble the Indian batters to a great extent. But the swing and seam movement may surely do. The windy conditions that prevail in New Zealand are a delight for every seamer. The ball sharply nips on and the late swing witnessed may adversely affect batting. With the red ball in question, the swing offered for the pacers will be much more. To counter this swing, the Indian batsmen would have to apply themselves really well, and make full use of the appropriate technique. Leaving a few balls outside the off stump, wouldn’t be a bad option. To jeopardize things for the Indians, a few of their batters are quite tentative around the off stump. The one positive that would be present for the Indians would be the ground dimensions. Most of the grounds, like the Mclean Park in Napier and the Westpac Stadium have the square boundary at a mere distance of 60 meters. So, please don’t be startled if even the nicks and the edges carry all the way to the boundary for a maximum! That’s pretty common here in New Zealand.
The men in blue will be starting their tour with 5 ODI’s. The last time they played an ODI series in New Zealand, they won 3-1. The ODI’s are likely to be highly entertaining, with the short boundaries coming in the fray. A score in excess of 400 will not be a unique thing in the ODI series. On their previous tour, the Indian batters posted a colossal total of 393 in the third ODI. So, this time 400 or even more, seems well on the cards. The battle that is about to take place would be between the batsmen of both the sides. Neither of the teams have bowling attacks worth bragging. The Kiwi batting line up too is burly, like their counter-parts. And the effectiveness of the Indian bowling attack is well known. A pessimist will say that the ODI series will determine which team has a worse bowling attack. But an optimist will counter that by saying the battle is to determine which batting attack is more ferocious.
However, New Zealand’s test bowling attack is much better, with the likes of Trent Boult and Neil Wagner getting in. Boult has been a sensation for them in the months gone by. Doug Bracewell hasn't disappointed either. Their control over the red ball is exceptional. But the Indian team has that X-factor, to match fire with fire. The test batting line up of the Indians too is highly rated, and it’ll be fun watching the Indian batters take on the Kiwi pacers in the tests.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR IN THE TOUR:
After going through a horrendous tour of South Africa, Dhawan would want to make amends as soon as possible. To get back into his groove, Dhawan has been rigorously training in Mumbai. With short square and third man boundaries, Dhawan may well score most of his runs in fours and sixes. His ability to cut venomously and his brawny bottom hand to go with the petite dimensions of the grounds will make Dhawan a man to watch out for in the upcoming tour. He needs to be careful around the off stump though. To be fair to Dhawan, a lot of batsmen are tentative around the off stump mark and he is no exception. After a mediocre tour of South Africa, one can expect Dhawan to come out all guns blazing.
Termed as India’s next Wall, the onus will be on Pujara to counter the new Kookaburra ball in the tests. Pujara did exceedingly well in South Africa and as always, scored a ‘daddy-hundred’. Cheteshwar would want to make a mark in the tests, to once again make his presence felt. In an interview recently, Pujara admitted that his dream was to be a part of the 2015 World Cup. With the World Cup to be played in Australia and New Zealand, this tour will be highly significant for Pujara to leave an impression.
Having achieved success in almost all aspects of his career, Virat would want once again want to do well. Its his first tour in this part of the world. Like Pujara, he too did exceedingly well against the likes of Steyn and Company. Kohli would want to carry off from where he left in Durban, and boy, when he gets going; there is no stopping what so ever. He is likely to do well and along with Pujara, Kohli forms the spine of the Indian batting.
Shami has been a sensation for India with the new ball. He made a dream debut at his home ground, Eden Gardens against the men from the Caribbean. The reverse swing which Shami got reminded many of Waqar Younis. Having the ability to bowl in excess of 140km/hr, Shami will be a priceless asset for India. The conditions too will assist his style of bowling. In South Africa, Shami was successful in both, tests and the ODI’s. In 3 ODI’s, Shami picked up 9 scalps and had a productive outing in the tests too. With the windy conditions favouring him, India’s ability to take 20 wickets in the tests, will rely greatly on the Bengal seamer.
As said earlier, it will be really premature to predict the precise results. However, the Indian team will be the favourites and they should do well in both the formats. Nothing like a test whitewash win for the Indians! As of this moment, the Indian team is poised to do well, but New Zealand too may spring up a surprise or two.