With the three-Test series winding down to its climax, there have been many talking points. In the recent past, in Test cricket around the world, exports have bemoaned the lack of zip in pitches, making for tame draws. The strip at Napier was true and hard and offered no lateral movement and all manner of explanations have been trotted out for why that was the case.
The most cynical of these explanations is that New Zealand Cricket is bending over backwards to make sure they do not irk the financially powerful Indian board. The other is that broadcasters are desperate to ensure that matches go the distance in these difficult financial times. A senior producer working with a company that routinely broadcasted cricket, however, denied this. “There are many theories going around but at least in this case that makes no sense,” he explained. “By the time Indian fans tune in, most of the play is already done with. Yes, broadcasters’ views are important, but to suggest they have a direct input in pitch preparation is nonsense.”
While the Indian team, led by stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag, would not directly complain about the pitch when asked about it at the end of the second Test, it is clear that the New Zealand camp is not amused, and understandably given they are trailing 0-1 and therefore desperately need a win. Daniel Vettori sparked off a debate with his views on the surface soon after the second Test and coach Andy Moles joined in.
“Everybody would admit that Napier was an exceptional batting wicket,” said Moles. “It’s very, very hard and therefore it is very difficult to see any real wear and tear. You are looking for mistakes from the batters as opposed to the ball misbehaving on the last day, as you would normally like to see on a really good Test wicket. But Phil Stoyanoff (curator) knows what he is doing; he prepares wickets that are known to have a bit of bounce in them and good to bat on. He hasn’t let the batters down here, that’s for certain.”
While we will have to wait till Friday to know whether the New Zealand camp gets a pitch that is to their liking, Moles put in another earnest plea on what he wanted. “We hope we get a wicket with more life in it. It’s a must-win game for us to draw the series,” said Moles. “Wickets here in Wellington do deteriorate. If we can get a wicket somewhere near the Auckland one-dayer where it nipped around a bit --- that would be ideal for us. As long as the wicket deteriorates over the five days, whoever plays the best cricket will win.”
Southee included for third Test
Medium pace bowler Tim Southee was added to the New Zealand squad for the third Test starting in Wellington on Friday. Southee, who was taken apart in the Christchurch ODI, going for 105 runs from 10 overs, has put in a strong performance in domestic cricket, picking up five wickets for Northern Districts against Canterbury . “Tim’s inclusion gives us additional options with the new ball, and strengthens the attack against this strong Indian batting lineup,” Glenn Turner, head of the selection panel, said.
New Zealand Squad:
Daniel Vettori (captain), Daniel Flynn, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Tim McIntosh, Chris Martin, Kyle Mills, Iain O’Brien, Jeetan Patel, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.