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November 27, 2010
Gautam Gambhir has said he is looking forward to the "great challenge" of leading India in the one-day series against New Zealand which starts on Sunday in Guwahati. It's been a hectic season for the home side, and with the much-anticipated tour of South Africa coming up next month, India have rested many of their heavyweights - including regular captain MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh - for the first two ODIs against New Zealand.
"It's a dream, I'm really excited," Gambhir said a day ahead of his first match as India captain. "Hopefully I can live up to the expectation. It's a responsibility that has been given to the team [to deliver without the seniors]."
The World Cup is less than three months away, but Gambhir insisted his side was not looking too far ahead. "The most important thing right now is to win the series rather than thinking about giving an opportunity to all the [fringe] players," Gambhir said. "It's an international series and you are playing for your country."
Guwahati has traditionally been a low-scoring venue, though Gambhir was expecting more runs this time. "270-280 seems a good total because it starts spinning in the second half," he said. "It depends on how the wicket is. I don't think the toss will play a big role."
Gambhir also defended a couple of his middle-order batsmen, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, who have struggled in recent times. Yuvraj was dropped for the Asia Cup earlier this year, and has had several fitness concerns this year. "Yuvraj is the biggest match-winner India has ever had at his batting position," Gambhir said. "He already has a half-century to his name in the last one-dayer he played and has done decently in Dambulla (in a tri-series in August) as well. It's just about playing one big innings and then he is back to his best."
Raina has only one half-century in his previous 15 ODI innings, and had a torrid time in the Tests against New Zealand, scraping 26 runs in four innings. "You can't compare Test cricket with one-day cricket. He has done brilliantly in one-dayers," Gambhir said. "If you look at his last performance in ODIs, he won the match against Australia."
One of the newcomers in the squad certain to make his debut on Sunday is 26-Bengal wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, who smashed an unbeaten 178 in the previous round of the Ranji Trophy. "Saha has done well in domestic cricket playing for Bengal. It's a good opportunity for him to show his talent," Gambhir said. "We all feel that he is a very good wicketkeeper, it's just about scoring some runs. It's all about carrying his momentum into international cricket. He is among the runs, so he will be feeling confident."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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