Faced with a do-or-die situation to stay afloat in the five-match series, New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori said his injury-hit side was hoping that dashing batsman Brendon McCullum would be available on Saturday to bolster the batting line-up in the third ODI against India in Vadodara.
New Zealand had been lacking the spark in their batting in the absence of McCullum in the first two matches and Vettori said he was hoping that the aggressive opener, who took part in the net sessions today, is available.
"I think he seems to have come through his training pretty well. He is improving all the time. He is doing some keeping now. We are really hoping he can play tomorrow," said Vettori at the pre-match media conference.
"We would like to see how Brendon gets through wicket keeping (stint) and then take a decision (on the team composition)," he added.
Vettori indicated how much the team was missing McCullum and the balance he brings to the playing eleven, when asked if he can be played as a pure batsman without being burdened by wicket-keeping job.
"It's definitely something that we will look at. Balancing the team is always difficult when Brendon offers so much with his keeping and opening the innings. We may even look at him batting down the order depending on his fitness so that his workload is not that high, but in the future we want him to keep and open the batting," said the bespectacled Kiwi captain.
Vettori said the team desperately wanted to win the game and stay alive in the five-match series in which they are trailing India 0-2, but also indicated how difficult the task was.
"We are really intent to win this game. We know we have to improve on a lot of things. They (India) are playing exceptionally well. They are one of the form teams in the world.
"You need to get to lower order first. We showed it in the first game that we can dismiss their lower order. But, it's important in a one-day game the top-order is the key. You got to be more vigilant, you got to bowl to your plans. The last match we could not do that and Gautam Gambhir played so well, he took the game away from us," he said.
Asked about opening the bowling with off-break bowler Nathan McCullum in the second ODI in Jaipur, Vettori said it was not a planned decision.
"(It was) a spur of the moment decision. It worked really well. We will look at it again and see how it goes. The thing with the spin bowler opening is if it does not work we can take him off," he said.
Vettori felt the inclusion of paceman Zaheer Khan would obviously beef up the Indian attack as the left-armer has been the team's best bowler for a while.
"He's obviously been India's best bowler for a while now. So he's going to bring valuable experience and a huge amount of skills to the table," Vettori said.
On the struggling form of one of his main batsmen Ross Taylor, the Kiwi captain felt the player will bounce back and will fulfill the team's expectations.
"I think he started to show some of his form in the first game. I think he has got incredible record and he is such a valuable player for us that we want him in form all the time.
"He knows the expectations we have on him and he knows the expectations of himself and when things don't go quite right, a little bit of pressure builds up but he is a good player and he will bounce back," Vettori said.
The left-arm spinner expects the Vadodara wicket to be full of runs.
"It's probably our first chance to play on red clay (surface). Another experience for our guys coming and playing for the first time. I have seen the scores in the past, which indicate it as a pretty good batting wicket. We would expect that," he said.
"I enjoyed coming here and playing in new cities. This is a beautiful ground. We have played on some picturesque grounds and this is another on this long list. If you want to be a good team you have to learn to win in all conditions," he pointed out. Vettori said it was good for his team members to have played matches in India ahead of next year's World Cup in the sub continent.
"It's incredibly important mainly because a number of guys haven't played in this part of the world. It's a learning curve and a great experience. We want to come here and win, because winning in India helps your confidence more than anything else," he said.