New Zealand in England, 2008 April 28, 2008

Oram and Taylor ready for England

Jacob Oram: 'I have 17 days of build-up before the Test match and if that's not enough then nothing will be' © Getty Images
The headlines when New Zealand landed for their tour of England were more about the players who hadn't arrived than those who had. Five of their key players are in India taking part in the IPL, raising questions about how focused the tourists will be. However, two of them who spoke to Cricinfo, Jacob Oram and Ross Taylor, were firm in dismissing the notion of being distracted and added they are happy to be the underdogs.

Oram recalled the scene back in New Zealand, just before the first IPL auction. "We had a big team meeting, everyone was there. We had a lengthy discussion about the whole situation," he said. "Not only from a playing point of view but even off the ground. Whether someone would feel left out, about the emotions and about going to England a little late. Everything was in the open and in the end everyone was okay and decided we would support whoever gets selected."

Taylor added: "Jac [Oram], Dan [Daniel Vettori] and Brendon [McCullum] were picked up and since we had already discussed everything before we were all happy for them. Later, [Kyle] Mills and I got selected."

Both players stressed that being part of the IPL has been a beneficial experience and, in a way, better preparation than if they were in New Zealand. "I am playing on the grass while the players in New Zealand will have had to do with practising indoors," said Taylor.

"We should still be there in England for two first-class games and I have 17 days of build-up before the Test match [at Lord's] and if that's not enough then nothing will be," Oram said. "We are not on a holiday here. We are playing competitive games. There is no distraction."

Moving onto the series itself, both readily admitted that England are the favourites. "We are always the underdogs, we tend to play our best cricket like that," said Oram. "They beat us in New Zealand and this will be the first [Stephen] Fleming-less team in years. The bowling looks pretty okay though it's obviously a blow that Shane Bond can't play and James Franklin would have been handy with his left-arm swing bowling."

For Oram, the key to New Zealand doing well will be the performance of numbers one to four in the batting. "One of the issues in the recent times has been the top-order batting. If we can nail two or three guys who can score big runs we can go a long way," he said. "With Fleming gone and recent retirements of Nathan Astle and Scott Styris we are pretty light on experience.

"Jamie How has played nine Test games and Ross Taylor only five but they will be vital. It's amazing how Taylor has become one of the senior batsmen. But I guess this needs to be looked at as opportunity. He had a great home series against England and he has to carry on his form here."

For his part, Taylor is looking forward to playing on the history-laden grounds around England. "You talk to any cricketer, he would love to play a Test match at Lord's and to get their name on the honours board. The top-order batting has been our Achilles heel; in the last decade we have gone through lots of openers. Hopefully the arrangement of How and me will do the job. If we can see off the new ball, we will have given us a good chance of making a big total, which will the crucial."

The ball will swing traditionally early in the summer but its going to be same for both sides Ross Taylor on the challenges facing the batsmen in England

Taylor has been speaking to his Bangalore team-mates like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis on the experience of playing in England conditions. "The ball will swing traditionally early in the summer but its going to be same for both sides," Taylor said. "It is something to be wary off but not get too caught up in it. Chanderpaul talked about the basics: playing close to the body and late. The others shared with me some good tips."

Taylor believes while the top order is the "unknown" the middle-order is strong. "We have got Oram, Brendon and Dan coming in. Hopefully the top order can score runs and support them."

Some experts have felt that the likes of Vettori and Oram should bat higher up the order, but Oram believes in maintaining the status quo. "It's difficult. I know Dan has batted well in the lower order but we know that the guys batting higher up have a much harder job than the guys further down. It is our strength - the lower-middle order - and I am not sure we should rock the boat there but should look to improve our top order."

Oram is also happy with Vettori's captaincy and compared him with the style of Fleming. "He captained for so many years and was obviously an outstanding captain. But Vettori is doing a great job. Being a bowler himself he probably understands the bowlers' psyche better. Not that Flem wasn't clued on."

The New Zealand media have been critical of coach John Bracewell but Oram believes he is still the right man for the job. "I have read and heard those criticisms but I really like playing under John. I think he has done great things. I know you can look at records and say he has not, but if you ask most of the players they enjoy playing under him."

On a personal level, all Oram is hoping for is that he remains fit for the entire tour and he has not set any targets. "I don't set goals at all. There is already enough pressure in playing at this level, adding individual goals adds unnecessary pressure."

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo