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Testing time as India look to get dismal New Zealand tour on track

Last updated on: February 05, 2014 15:35 IST

Testing time as India look to get dismal New Zealand tour on track

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The Indian cricket team hasn't won an 'away' Test since 2011, and it will require a huge effort by skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to reverse the trend and bring its faltering tour of New Zealand back on track in the two-match Test series, starting in Auckland on Thursday.

India were hammered 0-4 in the five-match ODI series following which it lost the No 1 ranking.

Dhoni revisited the team's performance in the Test series in South Africa to motivate his squad.


Image: MS Dhoni during the training session
Photographs: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

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'We have not capitalised when we had crucial situations'

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"If we consider the last series we played, we had one bad session, two-and-a-half-hours of bad cricket. Compared to the cricket we played throughout the series, that was really good," said Dhoni.

"We have not capitalised when we had crucial situations in the game. That is the only area of concern to some extent. The batsmen batted really well, but just those couple of hours where we did not do well. We have seen in this format, it can have a big impact on the game.

"It is important that when we are in a situation where we can command authority or dictate terms, it is very important we go through that phase and keep building on it," he added.


Image: (From left) Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher
Photographs: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images
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'We have had just enough time to get back into the groove'

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Dhoni said the team has had enough time to put the disappointment of the thrashing in the ODIs behind and get ready for the upcoming two Tests.

"We have had just enough time to get back into the groove. We had a practice game also. It is enough time, especially since we played five ODIs here. Most of the team remains unchanged.

"They have already had a look at the wickets, what they will be like, how they will play," he said.

New Zealand have laid out a green wicket at Eden Park for the first Test. Coupled with the pace and bounce on offer, it will be another stern test for the Indians who were bounced out in the ODI series.

"The plus point in Test matches is that you can pick and choose when you want to hit it and when you don't," said Dhoni, replying to a question on short-ball tactics.

"At times, the ODIs get dominated by how many runs the opposition have scored and how many you are chasing. We chase more often than not.

"If the opposition has scored 280 or 290-odd, and we don't get too many runs in the first ten, when they come in they have to play their strokes, as the asking rate keeps rising if you keep leaving them. That is the only difference," Dhoni added.


Image: MS Dhoni
Photographs: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

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Grass on the pitch alone cannot be an intimidating factor

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Dhoni said grass on the pitch alone cannot be an intimidating factor.

"More than the amount of grass, it is whether the grass is lively or not, or the base of the wicket has moisture or not. These are the two things that push you to take a decision.

"We will see how it is looking, whether it has the green tinge which means it has a bit of moisture, and if the base of the wicket is soft, which means it will assist the fast bowlers initially, and, as the game progresses, it will dry out and become harder and better for stroke-play," he opined about the pitch, after having denied seeing the wicket yet.


Image: MS Dhoni with coach Duncan Fletcher

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'Zaheer not only brings motivation, but also new plans'

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Even the hosts will be worried as India's seam attack isn't that weak, especially on pitches conducive for their bowling.

In South Africa, the fast bowling unit bowled longer spells than usual and very nearly scared the Proteas in the first Test at Johannesburg before the match ended in a draw.

"The good thing is that their approach (in South Africa) was really fantastic. As a team, we like to give them short spells so that they are fresh, thinking about the third or the fourth spell if needed. We try to use them in short bursts. But, if the situation demands, they will have to go for long spells," said Dhoni.

"So, in South Africa, I felt they did a very good job. Even when we bowled too many overs, when they came for the last spell, they were still putting in a lot of effort. That is very important," added the skipper.

Dhoni then went on to talk about his two senior-most bowlers, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, who will be leading the attack once again in this Test series.

"Zaheer not only brings motivation, but also new plans and helps the youngsters to execute them. He is a real help to the fast bowlers, as he is someone who has played a lot outside the subcontinent. It is always good to have an experienced bowler in the side," said Dhoni.

"More often than not we have used Ishant as a one-change bowler. That again is a very crucial slot. At times with the Kookaburra ball, you don't get a lot of swing after 25-30 overs.

"It is important you keep hitting the same length, and try to get the batsmen out with his extra bounce. It will be crucial for him to keep it tight, keep bowling in the same areas, keep repeating the action, keep hitting the length we want him to, and build on pressure," he added.


Image: Zaheer Khan
Photographs: Pal Pillai/Getty Images

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'Pujara is more of a banker'

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India lack experience in the batting department, led by the dependable Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, the latter in keen focus at the start of this Test series.

"Pujara has been really consistent. He is more of a banker. He respects the bowlers, wants them to pitch in his areas, and gives himself plenty of time. The domestic exposure has really helped him. He loves to spend some time in the middle.

"It is not easy to tempt him, to push him. Definitely he is someone who reads the game well. That's a big positive and he will only keep getting better and better," India's captain signed off.


Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters

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