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It's not about being favourites: Dhoni

cricket Updated: Feb 20, 2009 14:17 IST

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India's recent success against top sides like Australia notwithstanding, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Friday said his team does not start favourite against New Zealand although it is better-prepared to handle the seaming conditions they may face during the tour.

"It's not about what is going around in the media or who is considered favourite. You start from scratch when you go out to the middle. Whatever we have been doing in the past one year we have to do again. It doesn't really change," Dhoni said after the team's arrival.

Dhoni said his team, which plays two Twenty20 matches, a five-ODI series followed by three Tests during the 48-day tour, will have to adapt quickly as it prepares to take on a team that is dangerous as a unit. India has not won a Test series in New Zealand for the past 41 years.

"For me the New Zealand team is more about what they are as a unit, not individuals. That's their asset. They play well as a team. They back each other. They are a competitive side. It will be a good tour if the weather doesn't spoil it," said Dhoni.

The Indians were welcomed by rain after their 27-hour, bone-weary travel from Mumbai to Christchurch, prolonged by two transit layovers at Hong Kong (four hours) and Auckland (three hours).

Dhoni said the ODI series triumph against Sri Lanka will stand the Indians in good stead, just as the Kiwis would benefit from the drawn ODI series against Australia.

"It really helps to have tough, competitive cricket under the belt before a big series. You learn a lot. It's not always just about winning or losing. We put a lot of emphasis on the effort we give on the field and believe a lot in the process. The series against Australia will help the New Zealanders. In the same way, playing in tough conditions in Sri Lanka helped us," he said.

The 26-year-old captain said the youngsters will have to adapt quickly if the team has to perform to its potential.

"It's important to practice well and adapt quickly. The next few days will be important. Most of the guys haven't toured New Zealand before.

"The conditions are very different out in Christchurch. We now have more firepower to exploit the conditions, whether they are seaming conditions or a batting paradise. The first seven days will be important," he said.

Dhoni said his pacers are looking forward to exploiting the seaming conditions in Christchurch.

"The seamers will get a bit of help. That is the first thing that comes to your mind. Apart from that it is windy in Christchurch. We know a bit about the conditions. But it is about adaptability.

"You'd expect once he gets to a place like New Zealand or England, where the conditions favour the seamers more, he'll be at least as influential again," said Wright.

"Zaheer has really matured, he has really come of age. He had a spell of county cricket with Worcester and just did lots of bowling and that did him a lot of good. He hasn't really looked back since then."

Wright feels India might opt to field an extra seamer in Munaf Patel at the cost of one of the spinners.

The former India coach also had a word of praise for skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who will be leading the team on his first full tour abroad.

"He's done outstandingly well to lead India at such a young age with some big people in the side. Captaining India is a very challenging assignment, the microscope is constantly on you, but he seems to have really got them going. From all the people you talk to in India he is very impressive. They'll be well led."

Asked about Sachin Tendulkar, Wright said it would be good to see him in New Zealand.

"He's a very special person, he'll enjoy it in Christchurch. Sachin enjoys touring and it will be good to see him," said Wright who felt Indian players would enjoy their trip in Christchurch.

"They love the freedom. The highlight of the last trip was a trip on the Shotover jet. We did that as a group. That was the biggest day of the tour we had no highlights on the field."