India will look to defy history in New Zealand (Preview)

March 17th, 2009 - 6:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Sachin Tendulkar Hamilton, March 17 (IANS) India will seek to put behind a morale shattering record in hostile conditions and script a fresh chapter when they take on New Zealand in the first of the three cricket Tests starting here Wednesday.
Not even Sachin Tendulkar, the most experienced player in the Indian line-up with a tag of 156 Tests, has tasted victory in seven Tests he has played on New Zealand’s soil. And that itself shows the enormity of the task confronting Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his team.

India last won a series in New Zealand forty years ago and their last Test victory here came way back in 1976. The statistics at Seddon Park here are more gory. The famed Indian batsmen were blown away for 99 and 154, losing the second Test by four wickets in their last tour in 2002, which India lost 0-2.

The figures may be mocking their presence here, but this Indian outfit is not the one to be awed. They are a tightly knitted bunch that has built the reputation of successfully flowing against the tide. They revel such challenges, and in Dhoni they have a shrewd skipper.

India have successfully cracked open World Champions Australia, at home and away in the longer version, and they have been a revelation in the shorter version since their Commonwealth Bank series triumph in Australia.

India will take heart from their convincing 3-1 win in the One-day series, their maiden ODI series triumph in New Zealand.

But the five-day game will be a different ball game.

Dhoni reflects the mood of the team that has adopted a fearless approach to the game.

“We are not thinking about what happened in the past. I am not great when it comes to stats so that really helps,” Dhoni said on the eve of the start of the three-Test series.

New Zealand had successfully exploited India’s weakness of seaming tracks in the last tour, and this time too they are not reluctant to apply the same ploy but with a lesser degree as last time there was much criticism of the perfect grassy strips served to the tourists.

The Seddon Park turf is not expected to turn wild, but the curator has made it clear there will be enough for the fast bowlers.

“We still want something with a bit of pace in it - that would suit us more than it would suit the Indian side,” New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori said.

But New Zealand would be wary of their tactics, which could boomerang as India also have top fast bowlers in Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma. India’s reliance on its pacers has been such that even at home, the duo led the attack in nailing Australia last year.

The famed Indian line-up which includes Rahul Dravid and V.V.S Laxman, who have joined the squad for the Test series, will have a last opportunity to script Test success here.

Virender Sehwag has been in ominous form in the one-dayers and his opening partner Gautam Gambhir has been in great touch throughout last year.

The New Zealand Test squad includes two newcomers, bowler Brent Arnel and one-day top order specialist Martin Guptill, while James Franklin and Chris Martin have been recalled. The attack is expected to be led by the experienced Martin.

“We’re up against it. Experience is the major factor. If you look at the Indian top order, it’s very impressive through their weight of games and weight of runs,” Vettori said.

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