AUCKLAND: New Zealand are quietly confident of being able to exploit the green state of the Eden Park wicket and upset India in the first Test starting here today.
A combination of a bowler-friendly pitch and the success of the same XI, who won back-to-back Tests in similar conditions against the West Indies in December, meant the selection was a no brainer for captain Brendon McCullum (pictured).
“It’s a bit of both. It’s a nice luxury to be able to continue with the same team, and obviously the pitch as well,” he said yesterday.
It was definitely a bowl-first wicket, he added, with New Zealand intent on continuing the short-pitched attack that proved to be India’s undoing in the just completed one-day series won by New Zealand 4-0.
The home captain was also unphased by the huge gulf in the rankings between the two sides, where India are second to New Zealand’s lowly eighth.
“We know how tough a challenge it is but we’ve got a quiet confidence that if we continue to bowl and field as well as we have done this summer then we can expose some of the not-so-strong aspects of their game.”
The pitch has “a decent covering of grass” and the promise of more bounce than when New Zealand had England on the ropes here last year, only to be denied victory by a heroic century from Matt Prior on the final day.
While New Zealand were confident enough to name their side 24 hours before the toss, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was more circumspect in delaying naming his side as late as possible.
He also batted away any suggestion that India’s well-documented failings against the short-pitched deliveries in the one-day series would have a bearing on the Tests.
“The plus point in Test matches is you can pick and choose,” he said, adding that India were hampered in the ODIs by their openers not setting a solid enough platform.
“If you don’t get too many runs in the first 10 (overs) it means the middle order when they come in have to play those strokes because the asking rate keeps on rising if you keep leaving them.”
Dhoni gave little away about India’s approach other than indicating left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja could expect to occupy one end for long periods while he rotated his pace attack from the other.
Pace bowler Zaheer Khan and batsmen Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara are likely to be the only new faces in the Tests.
Pujara, boasting an impressive average of 66.25 from his 28 Test innings, will add much needed solidity to the batting line up.
New Zealand, however, by rewarding their victorious unit who beat the West Indies have retained Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford as openers and cannot be guaranteed a sound start.
Fulton and Rutherford produced a 158-run stand in their first Test as an opening partnership but have drifted down to average 30.91 in 16 innings since then.
New Zealand squad: Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum (captain), Corey Anderson, BJ Watling, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult. AFP
AUCKLAND: Injured New Zealand cricket great Daniel Vettori has set a May target to resume his international career with captain Brendon McCullum saying he should be an automatic selection if fit.
Vettori, one of the world’s leading all rounders, has been plagued by Achilles and back injuries and last played Test cricket 18 months ago.
The 35-year-old has now ruled himself out of a comeback at the World Twenty20 tournament in Bangladesh in March but said he is targeting New Zealand’s tour of the West Indies in May as the series that will determine if he can revive his career. “I want to commit to that tour otherwise it will be too hard to keep trying to come back,” the left-arm spinner said following a meeting with McCullum and New Zealand coach Mike Hesson.
“Mike and Brendon made it clear that if I play for New Zealand again I’ve got to deliver in all three facets of the game, which is completely fair. I can’t just bowl 24 balls and then expect to be hidden in the outfield.”
Vettori is one of only three players — behind Ian Botham and Kapil Dev — to score more than 4,000 runs and take more than 300 wickets in Tests, and McCullum sees him as a vital member of the New Zealand team if fit.
“He’s clearly a very well proven international cricketer and it will be nice if he was able to be part of the squad, but for him at the moment it’s a matter of making sure he tries to get himself fit,” McCullum said yesterday. “Hopefully if that’s the case we will see him in the West Indies. Obviously it’s the selectors who make those calls but from my point of view he comes straight in.”
Vettori last played a Test in July 2012 against the West Indies and his last internationals were three appearances in the 2013 Champions Trophy one-day series in England last June.
He recently played seven games in Australia’s Big Bash league, with the help of painkillers, but said he was barely able to walk at the end.
“It was a little bit worse than the past. Running around was difficult. I’ll just rest up and try and get that ready. If I can then that’s great and if I can’t then the writing is probably on the wall.”AFP