The lone ranger
He's only 24, but already Ross Taylor carries New Zealand's batting hopes on his shoulders. In a team that has been depleted by player movement to the Indian Cricket League, Taylor stands apart. The Indians will be well aware that Taylor is one batsman most likely to take the game away from them.
Taylor is a stroke-maker in a country famous for producing dogged, resilient batsmen. There's almost an Indianness to his batting, in the manner in which he looks to score, especially when he decides to unfurl the big shots. It comes as no surprise that Taylor idolised Sachin Tendulkar when his impressions of batting were being formed. "I wouldn't say I modelled my game on him but he was always one of my favourite players and someone I looked up to while growing up," Taylor said before his team practiced ahead of the first fixture of this series.
Taylor, whose full name is Luteru Ross Poutoa Lote Taylor, has a good chance of ending up as the most successful cricketer of Maori origin to play for New Zealand, if he can accomplish more than former stumper Adam Parore.
People of non-European origin make up almost 33% of the population and in Taylor they have a role model. In several other cricket playing countries, teams are becoming increasingly inter-racial. England have players of Indian and Pakistani origin, as do South Africa.
Zimbabwe have gone from being white-dominated to the other extreme. Even West Indies have, in Brendon Nash, a white cricketer in their Test team for the first time in three decades.
For this young New Zealand team, which is in a state of cricketing flux, the emergence of cricketers from non-traditional talent pools (Maoris have featured more prominently in sports like rugby) will only strengthen the system. Jesse Ryder, another player of Maori origin, has already shown promise, with only non-cricketing issues holding back his progress.
But for the moment, Taylor is not looking specifically to be a shining example for one set of people or another.
"First and foremost, you have your own personal standards you try and attain," he said. "That's doing well for yourself and for your country."
Taylor, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, also allayed Indian fears about the drop-in wickets that made batting a misery when India last toured.
In the seven innings completed in the 2002-03 tour, India's scores were 161, 121, 99, 154, 108, 219, 108, 122, 169, 200 and 122.
"I think a lot of people have made a lot of the wickets. The wickets have improved a lot since the last tour. I don't think the Indians need to worry about green, seaming wickets," he said. "It shows in our domestic form. The little dibbly-dobbly bowlers aren't having as much success as they had five or ten years ago."