Soon after India assembled for training on Tuesday, ahead of the second One-day International against New Zealand, Shikhar Dhawan made a quick trip to inspect the pitch. The left-handed opener seemed satisfied with what he saw before covers were brought on as rain began to fall again.
Despite a steady drizzle, as has been the case in the last two days in this eastern city, India players were involved in an intense game of football at the Seddon Park. The quality of grass on the outfield and excellent drainage meant they could continue without worrying too much about suffering an injury. The session was brought to an early halt after rain intensified. Showers have been forecast in the second half of the day-night match on Wednesday.
India have started their last two tours with a loss. Although it was not as one-sided as South Africa, both matches showed they were not geared up to execute their skills, having entered the series without a practice game. In South Africa, a short tour left no room for a warm-up. In New Zealand, India preferred nets despite arriving early.
Switching from Napier to Hamilton at the other end of the island could do some good for the world No 1 side, after their batsmen were caught out by the aggression and bounce unleashed by the four-pronged home pace attack. The 24-run defeat in Napier has set the agenda for the series. India batsmen will have to contend with short-pitched bowling while their bowlers, pace and spin, will have to counter the strong Kiwi batting line-up. With only Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni with the bat and pacers Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar making an impression in Napier, there is plenty for India to sort out. That the Hamilton pitch is expected to play slower will be a relief.
The Kiwis are banking on all-round aggression. Players have spoken of exploiting Indian batsmen’s weakness against bounce.
India will have to plug their weak areas if they are to avoid a thrashing in the ODIs.