The highly anticipated National Bank Test Series will be an enthralling one, with the BLACKCAPS keen to protect their proud home record and the Indian’s intent on showing the world they are no longer poor tourists.
India have been in outstanding recent form with confidence-boosting home series victories over England and Australia last year. They are now ranked third in the official ICC test rankings and are pushing hard for second. The BLACKCAPS have been a bit under done in the test arena in recent times but showed positive signs in last years away series win in Bangladesh and in the drawn home series against the West Indies.
The tourists bring one of the world’s strongest batting line-ups containing the formidable mainstays Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman. Throw in Virendar Sehwag who dominated the BLACKCAPS bowling attack in the recent one-day series, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s scintillating form and Gautam Gambir’s insatiable appetite for runs and you can be sure of getting your money’s worth on the boundary.
However, conditions in New Zealand have proved difficult to combat for the Indian team. It is 41 long years since India has won a test series on these shores – a statistic that won’t be lost on captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The BLACKCAPS have a talented batting line up of their own with newcomer Tim McIntosh proving he is more than capable at international level and the naturally gifted Martin Guptill set to debut at the top of the innings. Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum provide a tried and trusted middle order and are key to the BLACKCAPS success. Add in the world’s best number eight batsman and second ranked test all-rounder Daniel Vettori coming in down the order and the home side will feel that they can hold their own.
In the bowling department, Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra are the front line spinners for India; they will be joined by the lethal pace bowling combination of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma. The worlds sixth ranked test bowler, Harbhajan is likely to cause the most problems for the BLACKCAPS with his outstanding ball control and ability to vary his length and pace.
The home side have a seam attack that knows the conditions but it is likely be the left-arm spin bowling of Dan Vettori that will test the Indian bating line-up the most. Vettori has been the BLACKCAPS best bowler in recent years and will be looking to improve on his 286 test wickets and ICC test bowling ranking of 11th.
Six years ago the Indian team went down 2-0 in the test series in New Zealand. This is a different team that is looking to assert itself on world cricket and prove that that they can compete away from home.
The BLACKCAPS are keenly aware of their lower Test ranking and will call on their fighting spirit and home advantage during the series.
Make no mistake: there is plenty riding on this for both teams. It is going to be an entertaining National Bank Series.