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Off to New Zealand with some dents to repair

The tour of Zealand coming after two recent tours abroad is not likely to give the Indian team the creeps.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2002 19:37 IST

The tour of Zealand coming after two recent tours abroad is not likely to give the Indian team the creeps.

Most of the players have had enough exposure on bouncy pitches and incidentally also on new pitches in India which were supposed to be bouncy but on the contrary turned out to be high-scoring pitches where the ball came at a comfortable height and pace.

The New Zealand cricketers who are agitating for higher pay are not likely to be in the best frame of mind to face India. The Kiwis are not a formidable Test team though in the one-dayers the blacks can give back as much as they get.

The two Tests and a new format tournament which comes at the beginning of the tour will only be of academic interest.

The seven one-dayers that come later is the warm-up for the World Cup. A win in that series will help India repair some dents caused by the series loss at home to the West Indies and go with some chest-thumping confidence to South Africa for the World Cup.

The loss to West Indies has woken the team up to some ground realities: the weakness against genuine pace , the lack of strike bowlers and not even nine good batsmen can save a team on bad day. It has been said that an Indian tour always helps unknown players to assume world class status.

This has happened this time too with Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and Jermain Lawson, suddenly looking like formidable players which they weren’t before they came to India.

The return of Zaheer Khan, well rested and hopefully well-cured is important. If he bowls well in New Zealand, the major problem that India faces would have been solved.

Ajit Agarkar and Ashish Nehra can be lethal at times but neither of them are consistent. Both of them have the habit of sending down a few lose overs—a habit that comes from lack of experience and proper guidance. Agarkar’s whippy action and the pace it generates puts batsmen in a lot of trouble but he is still experimenting with some deliveries, most of which are dispatched to the boundary—mostly through the aerial route.

Since Tinu Yohannan has been selected for his third overseas tour it is time that he is given the opportunity to stake his claim as a useful fast bowler. His six-wicket haul which helped Kerala defeat Saurashtra by an innings in the Plate group of the Ranji Trophy was what got him his place back.

Nobody really knows what he is capable of at the international level, but since two different selection committees have reposed their faith in him, he should be elevated from the status of an experienced tourist to inexperienced player during the Kiwi tour.

If he is convincing enough, then a major problem would have been solved. Or at least the committee can in future let retiring pace bowlers go in peace, instead of being dragged back kicking and screaming.

Top players are rested and not dropped, so in a way it is good that Javagal Srinath was `rested’ for the first part of the tour. It would have been difficult to see Anil Kumble on the tour, so it is as well that he chose to take time off to be with his family.

It does not need an astrologer to predict that Kumble’s one-day career is as good as over.

Sachin Tendulkar’s got a month’s well deserved rest and Sourav Ganguly got two weeks at home. Rest for both of them meant no cricket but lots of appearances and promotions.

Tendulkar looked well rested sitting by the side of Virender Sehwag at a corporate function. Sehwag along with him and Ganguly form the new troika of corporate darlings.

Tendulkar advised that Sehwag has to keep playing his natural game, which is full of strokes. It is a strategy which does not always pay off. But if Sehwag gets more corporate backers than the other senior batters in the team it is due to his flamboyant batting style.

So Sehwag having been slotted into a Sachin-like opener is in danger of being caught in an image-trap. At this stage he does not realize that the corporates who hail him now and give him fat cheques will be the first to ditch him when the going gets tough for him.

He has to learn from people like VVS Laxman, who has cut out some of his daring strokes to build up bigger scores. He managed that in the ODI series against the West Indies, but the irony is that he will have to sit out once Tendulkar is back as number three.

Rahul Dravid promotes a brand of diesel engine oil, but like Indian diesel engines his pick-up is not fast enough. Though till the World Cup, the places of these two in the one-day team is safe, it might not be the case after February. Laxman, at least will be under pressure in New Zealand. Hopefully he will get to play some of the ODIs at least.

If New Zealand cannot put up their best team due to trade unionism, then this tour will be a washout. But then there is something called good batting practise on bouncy tracks.