New zeal... and chance for Team India to redeem itself
Regardless of the humiliation in England and Australia, this, says Haresh Pandya, is the best possible chance for India to prove it is still one of the finest Test teams.
One swallow does not make a summer, the saying goes. Team India may have won the recent one-day series in Sri Lanka, but it has not in any way helped erase bad memories of the disastrous tours of England and Australia, where we surrendered all the eight Tests without offering even token resistance.
So pathetic was India's performance that the horrors of those tours continue to haunt genuine votaries of cricket, if not the players concerned.
Forget the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, forget the one-off Twenty20 match in South Africa, forget the glamorous and lucrative IPL that followed, forget even the happy jaunt of Sri Lanka, the serious business of Test cricket starts now with the home series against New Zealand.
And Mahendra Singh Dhoni and company will redeem themselves of some of the sins committed in England and Australia if they manage to win both the Tests convincingly. It should not be a big task against what seems to be the weakest bunch of the Kiwis that has ever landed in India.
Image: MS Dhoni
It goes without saying that Team India is far too superior. Not only is it a much stronger side, it is also playing at home in favourable conditions. Our batting line-up is formidable as usual despite the absence of Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, who have now retired.
The youthful exuberance of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara nicely complement the experience of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and, of course, Dhoni, who has it in him to play for any team of the world on the strength of his batting alone.
Image: Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli
Chinks in India's bowling arsenal
Considering the might of, and the depth in, the star-studded Indian batting line-up, it is highly unlikely that the Kiwis, who are already crippled by the absence of their experienced spinner Daniel Vettori, rendered hors de combat because of a groin injury sustained in the West Indies, will have much of a chance against Tendulkar and company in Hyderabad and Bangalore.
Indeed, Chris Martin, Tim Southee, Doug Bracewell, Neil Wagner and Trent Boult will have a Himalayan task to stop the Indian batsmen from plundering runs.
There may be some chinks in India's bowling arsenal, but the medium-pacers and spinners picked by the selectors are capable enough of bowling out this particular New Zealand side twice in both the Tests.
Indian bowlers tend to be unpredictable
It will be a pity, a matter of shame even, if they do not. But you never know! Since time immemorial the Indian bowlers tend to be unpredictable, both individually and collectively, and it is usually seen that howsoever fresh and unknown, one or two batsmen from the visiting side prove their scourge in the series.
One can give any number of examples. Already captain Ross Taylor, Martin Guptil and Brendon McCullum have built some reputation for themselves and the triumvirate will no doubt try their utmost not to allow the Indian bowlers to dominate or run through the seemingly weaker Kiwis batting line-up.
Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and Piyush Chawla would be wiser to sharpen their skills and potent weapons, if any.
In the final analysis, however, nothing less than victories in both the Tests will do for Team India. It should do a world of good to the morale and confidence of our players.
This is their best possible chance to prove to the world, regardless of the humiliation in England and Australia, that they are still one of the finest Test teams of the modern era.
The ball is literally in their court and they must make the most of this golden opportunity and prepare themselves mentally and physically to take on the more experienced English cricketers in a full series at home come November.
Image: Zaheer Khan