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Kiwis gear up for the unknown

New Zealand are being drilled in the sights and sounds of India as they prepare to challenge for their maiden Test series win in the country.

india Updated: Sep 24, 2003 14:57 IST

New Zealand's cricketers are being drilled in the sights and sounds of India as they prepare to challenge for their maiden Test series victory in the country.

"The fear is the unknown," said New Zealand's stand-in coach Ashley Ross ahead of three-day tour opener against the Indian Board President's team here on Friday.

"A lot of our preparation has been geared towards diminishing the unknown. If you know yourself and the enemy, then you need not fear a thousand battles."

Stephen Fleming's Black Caps will play two Test matches and a triangular one-day series also involving world champions Australia during the seven-week tour.

Ross, deputing as coach till John Bracewell takes over in November, arrived with computer analyst Zach Hitchcock a week ahead of the rest of the squad to observe the Indian stars in action in an important domestic match.

The duo braved the heat and humidity of Chennai for five days to watch Sourav Ganguly's Rest of India team defeat reigning Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai, led by Sachin Tendulkar, by three wickets in the Irani Cup match.

"We were concentrating on checking whether players can cope with the kind of conditions you can expect in India," Ross said. "We saw a few things that we liked.

"It was a public game and I suppose we could have turned up anyway.

"Really, there are no secrets now. Everyone knows each other and how they play. In the end I suppose it improves the standard of cricket that we play.

"We have information on all our opposition over the last four or five years. That puts us in a great position to give Fleming information about field settings, where to bowl and that sort of thing."

Ross revealed the team had trained in Australia and at home in conditions simulated to meet the requirements in India.

"In Christchurch and Brisbane, we played on wickets that were specifically prepared to mirror Indian conditions and the heat as well."

New Zealand have won just two of their 24 Test matches in India since 1955-56, but Ross said the current team is too young to be influenced by the past.

"We've got a developing group of players who are not so much concerned with history," he said. "They want to make history of their own."

Ross said the main challenge confronting his team was the quality of Indian players rather than the pitches.

"We are excited by the challenge, not daunted by it. Whether we play on turning or grassy wickets, the challenge is the Indian players and not the pitches we play on."

New Zealand's Test squad is without strike bowler Shane Bond, who is recovering from an injury, and all-rounder Chris Cairns, whose wife is expecting the couple's second child.

Cairns will join the team for the one-day series, but the Kiwis have been bolstered by the return of veteran batsmen Craig McMillan and Nathan Astle.

The two back-to-back Tests will be played in Ahmedabad (October 8-12) and Mohali (Oct 16-20) before the tri-series is held from Oct 23 to November 18.

First Published: Sep 24, 2003 14:57 IST