The wickets for both the T20 games were drop-in pitches, which were very good batting tracks. However, no matter how good the tracks in this part of the world are, they are still very, very different from the conditions in Asia.
I think India paid for coming into a series outside home with no match practice. Now that the T20 games have given them some practice, I expect a much-improved performance in the one-day series, especially from the top order.
The batsmen need to be in good nick at Napier, which has the best wicket in New Zealand. If India bat first, they will need a score 280-plus, possibly 300, to feel relatively safe. There is no doubt that they have the quality to achieve that, and the return of Sachin Tendulkar will be a huge boost.
Sachin is the one person I am often asked about here, and there will be quite a few in the crowd who would want to see the vintage Sachin. I assume he will be opening, and it’s crucial for him and Virender Sehwag to get the team off to a good start.
A batsman-friendly pitch and short square boundaries puts an incredible pressure on the bowling attack. It would be a big setback for India if they don’t have the services of Ishant Sharma. Irfan Pathan has been on-and-off so far, but he will need to get it right.
It’s hard to bowl to the New Zealand openers, Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum. The latter is a short right-hander who advances down the pitch, while Ryder is most likely going to rock back and hit you over the top. To make matters worse, Zaheer Khan and Co. have seen very little of these guys and need to adjust their length quickly.
The New Zealand top-five has a strike rate of above 100, and this puts a lot of pressure on any bowling side. The bowlers too would have their work cut out once the Indian openers get accustomed to the conditions here.
The Indian cricketers’ charisma in general and the last T20 game in particular has really captured the imagination of the Kiwis. It’s hard to imagine in India how big the Super XIVs, the premier rugby tournament is back here. However, the T20 game and the build-up to the one-dayers eclipsed even the rugby over the weekend.