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November 3, 2010
A batting line-up that includes Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryder, Daniel Vettori, Brendon McCullum, and the inexperienced but talented Kane Williamson ought not to be pushovers. No one is sure, though, after the debacle in Bangladesh.
Will the change in format to Test cricket help New Zealand cope better against India? Daniel Vettori thinks so. There will be no run-rate pressure, they can ease themselves in and not have to try to attack the spinners. Mark Greatbatch, the coach, perhaps best presented New Zealand's likely approach: he is hoping that his team can hang in long enough and wait for India to make mistakes.
"Cricket is a funny game. If you compete with a team for long enough, something cracks," Greatbatch said. "It's either you or the other team. That's the challenge for us - to compete with India for a long period of time. Into the fourth day, fifth day, if we are still with them, they are human; they make mistakes like anyone else."
It makes immense sense and the fate of the series could depend on it. Greatbatch, though, was a touch concerned by the lack of Test practice.
"I was saying earlier that we haven't played Test cricket since March against Australia in New Zealand. We really miss playing more Test matches." They will be starting the first Test without any warm-ups and though nearly everyone in the camp has said that it's an unfortunate event but something out of their control.
Greatbatch is hoping that the Bangladesh debacle will act as inspiration for his players. "It's pretty tough. I don't like losing; we don't like losing, it's very tough indeed. And obviously, when you perform badly, home is not so good as far as the media and the public go, and you expect that. But we have got an opportunity to go head to head with a very good side to get some brownie points back.
"At the end of the day, India has got world-class players, a lot of experience. But youth is an amazing thing, I feel. We have got some good experience but we have got some good youth coming through. That is an opportunity for them to show their high skill level, and some of them have got very high skill levels."
Greatbatch has said a few harsh things since Bangladesh that have made the headlines: "They played like d****s," and "I am happy to take two draws [in India]". That was in the immediate aftermath of the Bangladesh fiasco. What does he think now? What went wrong there and what has he told his players?
"I don't think I have to tell them much, to be honest. They have got to play better; there is no doubt about that. Their skills have to better; the mind has to be better. The training the last couple of days has been exceptional. We have got a couple of more days. At the end of the day, the determination to do better is from within and I think you will see a better performance from this New Zealand side."
Not that New Zealand's top-order woes are of recent vintage. Adam Parore, the former New Zealand wicketkeeper-batsman, put it best when he recently said, "I can tell you that the allrounders and bowlers have long been sick and tired of having to carry the team over the years."
Greatbatch, though, is hopeful that Bangladesh would prove to be an aberration. "The challenge against Harbhajan, Ojha and Mishra is going to be there, but some of our guys have been playing a lot in the subcontinent and we feel we are getting better there, bar Bangladesh. We are trying hard to work out how to play those guys on these surfaces. We performed well under par and we got fried for our standards. There is a real determination to start well here on Thursday."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Plays of the Day from second ODI between South Africa and Pakistan, in Port Elizabeth
Plays of the Day from the third ODI between India and West Indies, in Kanpur