I’ve managed to obtain a copy of a ‘vision document’ prepared by coach Gary Kirsten for the Indian team. It outlines the coach’s plans to improve the performance of the Indian players in their drive to be the best team in the world.
It’s four damn pages long. I don’t have time to read that sort of epic. So I put it through Wordle to get the gist of the document:
A nice start to the tour, NZ beat India by 7 wickets in the first 20-20, and already Suhas’ quite reasonable predictions are off (he predicted a 0-2 NZ loss in the 20-20s).
I missed the game, but the scoreboard seems to show that we achieved the win with the same kind of single-minded efficiency that we bring to our ODIs. After about the 6th over, we never seemed to be more than 1 rpo off the pace.
Looking at the Indian scoreboard however really reveals the important factor in India’s inability to post a score to challenge New Zealand – cheap wickets. Gambhir, Sharma, Singh and Dhoni all went cheaply, getting 16 runs between them but using up 23 balls, a run rate less than half the overall rate – so that’s nearly 20 lost runs.
So India come to New Zealand even stronger than last time. All the talk is of them nabbing the no. 1 spot in the near future. And we’re well aware of where we sit in the rankings. However, the Indians have been notably short in bluster in the lead up the series. All the talk has been coming from Andy Moles. A tour of New Zealand is just the sort of experience that can bring a team back down to Earth. And the Indians are well aware of that and are perhaps even – could I be right in saying – a little scared.
Regardless of how the pitches are prepared, conditions in New Zealand will not favour India. This will go some way towards evening the odds. Suhas has made predictions for the results in the various rubbers. He’s probably got them all right. I am hoping that we can steal a test, but I’m not sticking my neck out and predicting that.
Players to watch
Martin Guptill/Tim McIntosh: I’m making a bold prediction of our test openers here, but both these players have impressed earlier in the season. What sort of a difference will it make to our test performances if we could build some decent opening partnerships? Chris Martin/Kyle Mill/Mark Gillespie: If we have exciting promise at the top of our batting line up, our opening bowling spot is practically non-existent. A serious problem.
Ishant Sharma: He’s still learning the game really, but even his natural ability – and his height (1.95 m) – could make him devastating in bowler friendly conditions. Virender Sehwag: Has been down in form over the past couple of years but has been keeping in touch with some massive scores. Averages 27 against New Zealand, so needs a lot of runs to fix that.
India are finally back to play cricket on our pitches. It was 02/03 when they were last here. Everyone else has toured in that time, except Zimbabwe. They’ve been a long time away from New Zealand shores. They were supposed to tour in 2007 but, well, they didn’t come.
There have been comings and goings in both teams since then, to say the least. By my reckoning, only two current New Zealand selections have any experience playing tests against India, Vettori and Oram. And the Indian team likewise is largely changed.
A significant change for both teams since the 02/03 series and the return series in 03/04 is that we have both moved on from epochal captains. Those series both occurred at the peaks of the careers of both Fleming and Ganguly. This season’s series will be a contest between the new generation captains Vettori and Dhoni.
Ganguly was India’s most successful captain by a big margin. He was an inspiration. I was in India for a year during his reign and it really felt that for once hero worship and fair analysis had got it right in believing that Ganguly (along with John Wright) was the driving force behind India’s continued success. Of course, he had his quirks. Sportsfreak has a good summary of Ganguly’s snooty antics, which goes a long way towards explaining why JRod calls him a giant alien lizard freak. Flintoff described playing with him at Lancashire: “It’s a struggle with him. He wasn’t interested in the other players and it became a situation where it was 10 players and Ganguly. He turned up as if he was royalty – it was like having Prince Charles on your side.”
Dhoni is a real contrast with Ganguly, with his Bollywood good looks, comparatively humble background and Sehwagian approach to batting. He is a captain for his time like no other captain has been at any other time. He is also, 5 tests into his career, many times more successful than Ganguly. He has captained 4 wins from 5 tests.
I’ve updated the schedule to include the changes to the Indian tour. I hope I have all the details correct. Below, I have tried to show the relevant changes, with the old schedule first, then the new schedule with all changes shown in bold (except the numbering of the matches).
With 10 internationals, the India tour is now the marquee series of the Black Caps season. And with some decent weather, let’s hope it gives us some more decisive results.
It sounds like an additional test this season is on the cards. India are scrambling to fill the gap in their schedule caused by their pulling out of their tour of Pakistan. They are negotiating with Sri Lanka to visit for a short ODI series and are also suggesting to NZC that they would like to squeeze in another test against New Zealand, which would make it a three-test series, turning it from a sham series to a real contest. Adding an extra test to the end of the test series would push it to mid-April. The last time this was tried, when Sri Lanka’s 04/05 series had to be rescheduled, it became borderline farcical as play at the Basin had to be abandoned around 5pm as the RA Vance stand shadow reached the pitch.
I wonder if there is a stadium they could schedule it at that doesn’t have any shadow-casting structures at the wrong part of the ground.
The other option is to bring the whole tour forward by a week. There is a massive gap in our schedule after the Chappel–Hadlee in February, but that would require rescheduling five ODIs and the 20-20. Or they could wrap the test series around the ODI series for a lark.