Kiwis look to Fleming to crack India
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Kiwis look to Fleming to crack India

Kiwis will bank on Stephen Fleming's solid batting and shrewd captaincy to break the Indian jinx.

india Updated: Oct 07, 2003 11:19 IST

New Zealand will bank on Stephen Fleming's solid batting and shrewd captaincy to break the Indian jinx in the two-Test series starting here on Wednesday.

Fleming stoked the Black Caps' ambition of winning their maiden Test series in India after leading from the front in Sri Lanka in May.

His side drew both Test matches in Sri Lanka and then went on to win the one-day triangular that also featured Pakistan.

The stylish left-hander played a key role in solving Muttiah Muralitharan's off-spin puzzle, cracking an unbeaten double-century in the opening Test at Colombo to set the tone for the series.

Fleming, considered one of the most astute captains in contemporary cricket, will be expected to do the same in India as the hosts rely on spinners Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh to trap the tourists.

"We anticipate turning wickets in India," said Fleming. "We need to apply ourselves well. It's going to be a great challenge."

More formidable teams than New Zealand have found it difficult to tame India at home, where the hosts flaunt their batting talent on slow tracks and spinners always smile.

Steve Waugh's world-conquering Australians fell prey to the Indian tricks in 2001 when they lost a three-Test series after winning the opening match.

Fleming was not off the mark when he said an Indian tour was tougher than that of Australia or the West Indies.

"India offers different demands," the 30-year-old said.

"The quicker you adapt to the conditions, the better you do. India have three or four world-class batsmen. They also have a very good spin attack and that's where the challenge lies."

New Zealand's batsmen, preparing for a spin examination, had little time to adjust to the conditions. Their tour-opener was nearly washed out and they batted just one innings in the second and last warm-up match.

Opener Mark Richardson and all-rounder Jacob Oram alone made the most of the limited opportunties by scoring centuries in the second game at Rajkot.

Batting holds the key to New Zealand's fortunes as they are without strike bowler Shane Bond and ace all-rounder Chris Cairns.

Bond is recovering from a back injury, while Cairns will join the squad for the subsequent one-day series also involving Australia.

Sourav Ganguly's home team too faces problems ahead of the first Test.

The pace attack lacks experience in the absence of unfit Javagal Srinath and Ashish Nehra, while the search for a settled pair of openers continues.

India will try out a new opening combination of debutant Akash Chopra and Virender Sehwag in the first Test.

Ganguly, who is just one Test win short of equalling Mohammad Azharuddin's Indian record of 14 victories, said his team still had the firepower to beat New Zealand.

"If we cannot win this series, then I'd think we've done ourselves something wrong," the Indian captain said.

Ganguly, whose side lost both Tests in New Zealand last year, said he did not believe it was a grudge series.

"We'll play as we do in other series. We just need to win. They're a good side, but it's always difficult to beat India at home," he said.

New Zealand

Stephen Fleming, Mark Richardson, Nathan Astle, Lou Vincent, Scott Styris, Craig McMillan, Jacob Oram, Robbie Hart, Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey, Paul Wiseman, Michael Mason, Ian Butler, Richard Jones

India (from)

Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Akash Chopra, Rahul Dravid, Venkatsai Laxman, Parthiv Patel, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble, Aavishkar Salvi, Laxmipathy Balaji, Sairaj Bahutule

First Published: Oct 07, 2003 10:43 IST