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The Rediff Cricket Interview / Cricket New Zealand CEO Justin Vaughan
'Black Caps are well-prepared to take on India'
February 19, 2009
The Indian cricket team, buoyed by recent series victories over England [Images] and Sri Lanka [Images], is off to New Zealand [Images] for its first series in six years. Mahendra Singh Dhoni's [Images] men will play two Twenty20 [Images] matches, five One-Day International and three Tests over the next six weeks.
On the last tour of New Zealand in 2002, India lost both Tests inside three days before losing the one-day series 2-5. In fact, it's been 33 years and 13 Tests since India won a Test in New Zealand. The score on the ODI front too is as gloomy: just six wins in 20 bilateral ODIs there.
This time though the team is better prepared for the seaming wickets, and conditions New Zealand venues offer, and looking to set the record straight.
Cricket New Zealand CEO Justin Vaughan, a former Black Caps player and an avid cricketing enthusiast, is not prepared to write off the Indians though he feels Daniel Vettori's [Images] side, after an impressive showing against the Aussies, will be hard to beat at home.
Do you think New Zealand cricket has grown over the years? We have seen some great players in the New Zealand side like Stephen Fleming [Images], Chris Cairns [Images] and the likes. Do you think the current team meets up to their standards?
Yes, definitely. Cricket in New Zealand has come a long way with regular high ICC [Images] ratings for the team. The current team is pretty strong, comprising skipper Daniel Vettori and talented bowlers and batsmen. Brendan McCullum, popular with the Indian crowd, is young and has shown a lot of improvement. Performing roles of both batsman and wicketkeeper, he forms an important of our team.
Jacob Oram [Images] is a fabulous One-Day all-rounder and Ross Taylor [Images] is another young and brilliant player. Among the bowlers, Kyle Mills [Images] is a brilliant bowler and a valuable team player; Jesse Ryder [Images] has tremendous talent along with Tim Southee [Images].
Overall, I would think the New Zealand team is well-balanced with experienced and highly talented young players.
How is the New Zealand team geared to face the Indians, considering the visitors are high on confidence after a fantastic series against Sri Lanka recently?
It's no doubt that the Indian team is pretty strong, but the New Zealand team is quite confident about this series. Firstly, we will be playing within New Zealand conditions, which would provide some assistance. The pitches here are a lot like England that allows the ball to bounce a lot. Both New Zealand and India are high on confidence, since India has just wrapped up a great series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand played well against Australia [Images]. I would think the Black Caps are well-prepared to take on India. The Indian team better be on its guard!
The Indian team is touring New Zealand after six years. What's the preparations to prove this to be a quality tour?
We're very happy to have the Indian team back in New Zealand after all these years. We're very determined to ensure they are comfortable during their stay here. John Wright [Images], who was the coach during the 2003 tour, is now working with Cricket New Zealand and is advising us on hospitality for the Indian team from ensuring Indian cuisine is available, the accommodation is comfortable, the practice facilities are up to mark. We want them to feel at home in New Zealand!
Kiwi hospitality and tourism is something that is very famous. How are you planning to weave these aspects in during their stay in New Zealand?
Yes, we are very keen to deliver a fabulous experience for the Indian team during this series, both during playtime and downtime. On one hand, we are ensuring all the venues have world class playing conditions and the practice sessions are well-equipped; and on the other hand during their downtime, we are looking forward to give them a real taste of the New Zealand holiday experience with our spectacular scenery and dramatic landscapes, wide range of adventure activities from sky diving, bungee jumping, jet boating, rafting, hot air ballooning, wildlife encounters and the youthful, friendly attitude of the Kiwi people� and of course, ensuring other comforts with fine accommodation and Indian cuisine.
In 2003, there was concern that the New Zealand pitches were not very good. Have you taken special care this time to ensure that the pitches are up to the mark?
The 2003 tour happened in early summer (Dec-Jan) when the conditions were a lot more bowler friendly. This time, the series is better timed (Feb-Mar) as we have had a very dry summer so far, which means that the wickets will be of good quality and there should be no concerns on this aspect.
Since you have been born and brought up in New Zealand and played cricket there for years, which is your favourite ground amongst the ones where this series is scheduled? Why?
I'm from the city of sails, Auckland. My first Test victory was at Eden Park stadium in Auckland, so the memories from those days are pretty strong. I got my first One Day International victory at McLean Park in Napier, which is in the beautiful coastal region of Hawkes Bay, with breathtaking countryside scenery by the ocean and lots of vineyards that has special memories as well. The Basin Reserve in Wellington, the capital city, is considered the leading Test venue in New Zealand and also the stadium where I had my first class cricket debut and scored a century.
The venues for all games this time are very well selected with an eclectic, diverse mix of regions that not only promise a good time inside the stadium but also make for great tourist attractions with a vibrant, cosmopolitan environment in Auckland, geothermal and Maori experiences in Rotorua, relaxed English charm of Christchurch, beautiful countryside scenery in Napier and the capital city of Wellington!
Which are the players to watch out for?
From the more experienced set of players, Daniel Vettori has grown well into his captaincy role and shares a lot of the load with his bowling skills; and, of course, Brendan McCullum and Jacob Oram are great assets as well. From among the younger players, Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor have fantastic batting abilities while Kyle Mills and Tim Southee have incredible swing bowling talent.
As for the Indian team, I am in awe of their batting strength, not only with players like [Sachin] Tendulkar, but the comeback of [Virender] Sehwag is also very inspiring. From the younger players, [Gautam] Gambhir is one talent to be watched out for. Ishant Sharma [Images] is doing extremely well and it will be interesting to see the competition between him and [Tim] Southee.
Another impressive player is Dhoni, who probably has not been to New Zealand yet, but is someone with exciting potential. John Wright speaks extremely highly of Zaheer Khan [Images] and is quite impressed with him. The Indian team has quite a lot of stars built in there!
Is it a concern that most players in the New Zealand team are fairly new and there is pressure on them to perform?
Perhaps, there is a little bit of pressure against all the stars in the Indian team, but we are very confident that we will do well in the One-Day games. Though we have a number of young players, most of them have gained experience with international cricket� such as Brendan McCullum, Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills and Jacob Oram. Our older experienced players like Scott Styris, may make a comeback soon and we're hoping to see Chris Martin back as well.
New Zealand is one of the suggested co hosts for the 2011 Cricket World Cup. What are your plans for the same, considering it is a huge event?
New Zealand is a reserved venue for the 2011 Asian World Cup, but we're hosting the 2015 World Cup. For the Rugby World Cup in 2011, all the stadiums will have new stands, so we're hoping to benefit from this for the 2015 World Cup.
Having been a member of the Black Caps in the past and moving to head Cricket New Zealand, how has your perspective of cricket changed from being a player to being the CEO of Cricket New Zealand?
I last played for the Black Caps in 1997, and since then a lot of exciting changes have taken place in the world of cricket. I assumed the CEO role over 18 months ago, and through this course, I have been witness to so many changes�.from the 20-20 games, private leagues opening up, the successful IPL franchise.
These are exciting times and there is growing interest in the game the world over, though I believe the heartbeat of cricket is in India. I am looking forward to impress the Indian team and Indian fans. I am very confident that this upcoming series is going to be exciting from start to finish!
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