Rain threatens sixth India-NZ ODI
India's hopes of getting back to a winning run ahead of the World Cup were in danger of being washed out with persistent rains threatening the staging of sixth one-day international against New Zealand on Saturday.
India broke their dismal losing streak on this tour with a win in the fifth one-dayer at Wellington and were keen to clinch the remaining two games of the seven-match series too to get back to winning habits before the next month's World Cup. But it seems their plans might be spoiled due to rains.
It has rained ceaselessly over the last few days in this largest city of New Zealand and playing a match tomorrow appears a remote possibility right now. The forecast for the reserve day on Sunday is also not very good.
In fact, Hamilton, the venue of the seventh and last match on January 14, has also been experiencing heavy rains, and it appears that the last competitive game of the series has already been played.
Rains could thus bring a premature end to the troubled Indian tour of New Zealand which saw the visitors managing just one win in seven outings.
The Indians were blanked in the two-Test series with the New Zealand bowlers exposing their batsmen on pitches tailor-made to suit home bowlers. The hosts then ran to a winning 4-0 lead in the one-day series before the Indians managed a consolation victory in the previous game at Wellington.
"One poor tour is not the end of the world. We will go to South Africa in a pretty confident frame of mind," Ganguly said today.
"Every team passes through such a phase. There are ups and downs in every sport but the important thing is to be able to come back.
"It was good to have our first win in Wellington. It is important to win the remaining two matches as well," he said.
Ganguly also defended his batsmen saying the conditions were not suited for batting.
"It was difficult batting in these conditions. In fact, the New Zealand batsmen also struggled to get runs both in the Tests as well as the one-day series," he said.
A few Indian players came out of their hotel rooms for an indoor practice session today. Ganguly, his deputy Rahul Dravid, Sanjay Bangar, Mohammad Kaif and Dinesh Mongia decided to make use of the indoor nets at Eden Park and trained hard with coach John Wright to sort out some technical flaws in their batting.
Most of the Indian batsmen have struggled badly on this tour but Ganguly's failures have been more pronounced. He scored just 29 runs from four innings in the Test series and aggregated 20 from five one-dayers.
"It's always hard when you haven't scored runs. But you have to to keep going because it's a matter of just one innings," Ganguly said.
"You need just one knock to get back to form."
However, it looks as though Ganguly would have to wait till India's first match of the World Cup to regain his magic touch with the bat.
An end to the series here would also be disappointing for Sachin Tendulkar whose only one innings in the one-day series lasted just nine balls before being cut short by a dubious umpiring decision.
Tendulkar's form is crucial for India's prospects in the World Cup and the maestro's lack of runs is a serious concern to the team.
Cricketers like Bangar, Dinesh Mongia, Mohammad Kaif, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble could go back home with a similar sense of unfulfilment though Javagal Srinath proved that he was still the country's best bowler.
The New Zealanders are not fully settled unit either with injuries to a few key players being a serious concern.
Nathan Astle has been sidelined due to a knee injury while all-rounder Jacob Oram is out with a broken finger.
Astle went to Christchurch yesterday to have an ultra- sound examination on his left knee.
Despite their wins, the New Zealand batsmen have also not been able to put up good scores on the board and captain Stephen Fleming admitted that was an area of concern for the side.
"Even though we are not losing, we feel we can play better cricket. We are a bit concerned with the form of our top-order batsmen," Fleming said.
He said Matthew Sinclair would open the innings in the absence of Astle, if the matches are played.
"He (Sinclair) has got the experience and has done the job before," Fleming said.
India: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Mongia, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Sanjay Bangar, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar, Ashish Nehra, Javagal Srinath, Parthiv Patel, Rakesh Patel.
New Zealand: Stephen Fleming (captain), Matthew Sinclair, Lou Vincent, Chris Harris, Chris Cairns, Scott Styris, Brendon McCullum, Andre Adams, Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey, Shane Bond, Kyle Mills.
Umpires: Daryl Harper (Australia) and Brent Bowden (New Zealand).
Third Umpire: Tony Hill (New Zealand).
Match-referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka).
Time of play (IST): 6:40 to 10:10 am and 10:50 am till close of play.