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Hyderabad ready for the Laxman show

cricket Updated: Nov 12, 2010 01:12 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times
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Before they start controlling what is expected to be a good crowd for the second Test beginning on Friday, the cops here got a little dose of their own medicine from their own men.

On Thursday, a bunch of junior policemen numbering about 50 became so engrossed in clicking pictures of the Indian stars doing nets on their cell phones that it took an mild dose of lathicharge from a superior to send them scurrying back to their designated places.

This may or may not be representative of how keen fans would be to watch Hyderabad hosting a Test match after 22 years, one that is VVS Laxman's first at home, but the intensity shown by the teams during match-eve practice conveyed that they mean business.

They spent hours under a hot sun sharpening their strengths and tightening up the loose areas ahead of what is expected to be another test of New Zealand's survival skills in unfamiliar conditions. Their batsmen have to repeat the performance of the first Test and the bowlers have to better it.

Daniel Vettori was asked on Thursday whether they have what it takes to claim 20 Indian wickets and he pointed out that is what they did in Ahmedabad. What he did not say was that the world's No.1 Test team scored 487 in the first innings and saved the match comfortably after being forced into a corner in the second.

Vettori, however, accepted it was a new challenge. "We did well in the first game but have to back it up with another strong performance. Otherwise, it will prove meaningless. Teams are judged by what they do over a period rather than what they do in one game."

This means another test of application and ability for an inexperienced batting line-up, which overcame a bad start in the first Test. As a unit, the New Zealand batsmen exceeded expectations without any contribution from two in the top three, but they have must prove that it was not a one-off show.

The bowlers too will have to do something special to trouble the Indian batsmen again. New Zealand will have to find a replacement for injured fast bowler Hamish Bennett and may think of bringing in another pacer in place of off-spinner Jeetan Patel. Vettori said plans would be finalised after a closer look at the pitch.

The pitch seemed to be Mahendra Singh Dhoni's main concern too. "It was difficult to take wickets in Ahmedabad and the pitch here is known to be flat with greater bounce, which makes it easier for batsmen. I just hope that the pitch offers something to our fast bowlers and spinners."

If his reading of the track is correct, then Dhoni has a small selection dilemma. Asked how difficult it is to choose between Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma, Dhoni said: "Sreesanth bowls it full while Ishant holds it a little back of the length." If the pitch is indeed a firmer one with bounce, then Dhoni may think of bringing Ishant back.

Irrespective of the changes in personnel, the story of the series remains unchanged with some enhancement in reputation for New Zealand. India, too, didn't do anything to lose respect after the first match, but they would be eager to set a few things straight including the record when the umpires call play on Friday.