'Young India batsmen are a lot better than they used to be'
Fiery pace and bounce has always been India's bane on foreign soil but former New Zealand speedster Simon Doull says India's young brigade of batsmen is well equipped to face the Kiwi quicks on green tops.
Doull said the new-look Indian side, radiating with youthful exuberance, is full of shot-makers who have grown up playing on better surfaces, facing the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Dale Steyn in the IPL.
"Gone are the days when one could send the visitors to a green-tinge deck and they would be worried. For one, India's batting order won't fall over like the West Windies did (in the earlier series). From one to seven, they've got quality batsmen. Guys like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni will hurt you, whether it's pace or spin you bowl to them," Doull wrote in his column for stuff.co.nz.
"Young India batsmen are a lot better than they used to be at facing pace. They've grown up playing on better surfaces, facing the likes of Johnson and Steyn in the IPL - so they are far better equipped to play good, quick, short-pitched seam bowling. Their ability to play spin is undoubted, so it will be a real mountain for the New Zealand bowlers to climb," said Doull.
Image: Virat Kohli
Photographs: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters
Hard task to win this series
The Indian team arrived in Napier for the five-match series which would be followed by two Tests next month.
Doull said the upcoming series, starting January 19, will be a real test for New Zealand.
"We've seen the ramble that has been the West Indies come and go - now the Black Caps have got their big summer task ahead of them: a one-day series against the world's best at that format, India. It's going to be a hell of a hard task to win this series. India are extremely good," he said.
The 44-year-old Doull, who featured in 32 Test matches and 42 ODIs for the Black Caps, said the pitches in New Zealand will hold no concerns for the Indians.
"Look at Napier - a hard, fast quick surface that doesn't go sideways; same with Hamilton and Auckland - plenty of runs in both those wickets. They will love them."
Image: New Zealand cricket team
Photographs: Phil Walter/Getty Images
'Binny could be handy on NZ pitches'
Doull, whose international came to a premature end following back and knee injuries, said the hosts should keep an eye on a couple of new guys in the India line-up.
"Stuart Binny is a genuine all-rounder - a powerful hitter, who bowls some sneaky medium pace that could play well on the Kiwi pitches. Varun Aaron is a quick for the Delhi Daredevils and should catch the eye. He has been having injury worries on and off for the past two years.
"A bit like Umesh Yadav, he's got genuine pace - and is a guy they've got an eye on to the future for seam bowling. India in the past decade have struggled to find genuine quicks - but they've got actually got a good group of seamers now," he said.
Image: Stuart Binny
'Adam Milne deserves a good opportunity'
Doull said a 3-2 result, win or lose, will be a good series tally for the hosts.
Talking about the New Zealand players, Doull said the running between the wickets needs an improvement.
"Gone are the days when the Indians had a few draught horses in the field; these guys are a super-slick fielding unit. There aren't too many places where you can hit the ball and pick up the easy ones as you could in the past."
Doull said he would be interested to see what the Black Caps do with their bowling attack.
"I believe Adam Milne deserves a good opportunity. He got only two overs in Queenstown against the Windies - and is worth a shot early in the series against India. We need to see whether he has the ability to foot it at this level.
"There are a couple of questions for the top batting order. Martin Guptill's innings in Nelson against the West Indies would have done him a lot of good, because he was coming back into the team and still finding his place. He's got to make sure that Jesse Ryder doesn't have to swing all the time and create all the strike-rate.
"The continued development of Kane Williamson at first drop is key. Going down the order, Luke Ronchi really has to show us something in this series. He has promised a lot and they've backed him - but we haven't seen much from him as a New Zealand international yet," he said.
Image: Adam Milne
Photographs: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters