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History beckons

cricket Updated: Mar 25, 2009 02:21 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times
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This Indian team is the ultimate nightmare for bookies. Forty-eight hours ahead of a Test match they don't even give a tentative glance to the pitch — in fact they're not even in the city where the game is to be played. Hence, there's no chance of them having firmed up the final playing eleven. Certainly, there are two schools of thought on the team's decision to come to Auckland for two days of rest and practice when the next Test is to be played in Napier starting on Thursday.

For the first time in 41 years, India find themselves in with a chance of winning a series in New Zealand and yet Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men have decided that they will continue doing things their own way. So far, this has brought results, and as the adage goes, nothing succeeds like success.

Indeed, this is the team's way of showing that their constant refrain: ' Control the controllables, don't worry about the rest' is not merely a motto, it's what they live by.

While being in Napier might have helped the Indians get in tune with the conditions, they certainly will not go into the Test under-prepared. Tuesday's net session was intense and purposeful and it is clear that individuals in this team understand that history beckons. Hunger and motivation have been heightened, with the players getting a breather after the first Test before returning to practice.

One of the reasons India worry little about the pitch they will play on is their stated goal of being No 1 in the world. As Australia have already shown, you have to beat all teams in all conditions to get to the top. Still, if Napier provides that extra bit of bounce that Daniel Vettori has been after, it won't disappoint the Indians. India have the more balanced of the two teams and this knowledge gives them the confidence they need ahead of the second Test.

New Zealand have never been a team of superstars, but they have always been combative and fiercely protective of their record on home turf. In Vettori they have a thoughtful and sensitive captain, and he will know that despite India's batting might, there are batsmen in the line-up susceptible to that extra bounce and lateral movement.

However, he is hamstrung by the presence of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, who have outbowled his seamers thus far.

There's a whiff of history in the air as the teams move into the second Test. The home team does not want to concede ground it has protected so ably for so many years.

For the visitors, the anticipation has reached fever pitch, and in their hearts they know that unless New Zealand lift their game to a different level altogether, 2-0 is not that far away.