India in New Zealand 2008-09 January 15, 2009

Axed practice game draws flak from former players


The extra Twenty20 game on the tour was added after a request from the New Zealand side © AFP

India's schedule for next month's New Zealand series, announced today, has raised questions over the lack of any practice match through the 48-day tour. An extra Test was included in the revised schedule - comprising three Tests, five ODIs and two Twenty20 matches - in place of the practice game that was originally scheduled, leaving no opportunity for India to acclimatise to unfamiliar conditions.

Former India captains Dilip Vengsarkar, the previous chief selector, and Bishan Bedi, who was manager of the team that lost the 1990 series in New Zealand, criticised an itinerary that will not allow the team to acclimatise to the conditions - cold, windy and conducive to swing bowling, and vastly different from those in the subcontinent, where the team played for most of last year - in a match situation.

"It is very important to play not one but at least two practice games to acclimatise to the conditions and the pitches because it takes time to settle," Vengsarkar said. "Practice is different compared to spending time in the middle. In New Zealand, the weather conditions and pitches are different to what we experience here. The ball moves around a lot, the pitch is spongy and you take time to adjust to that. The Test players could have done with at least a two-day practice game."

Bedi said the current schedule presented a no-win situation for India. "A practice game is meant for the visiting team to get familiar with the local conditions before the real contest," he said. "So, it (scrapping the practice game) is not a very healthy development. New Zealand is very much like England, and it is very cold. Going from the comparatively dry weather in India to New Zealand is always difficult. It is a no-win situation for India. If they do well, it will be deemed as expected, and if they don't, it will be said that they are not professionals."

Sanjay Bangar, a member of the Indian team that lost both Tests on their last tour of New Zealand, in 2002-03, said the players, particularly the Test specialists, needed more time to adapt to the extreme conditions there. "The last time, the conditions were pretty extreme and I guess they will be similar this time too," he said. "The Test-only players will need more time to adapt."

India played one practice match in Sri Lanka last year, one in Australia before the Melbourne defeat, and two in England a few months before that. In fact, the only away bilateral series in the recent past in which India did not play a warm-up game, was in Bangladesh in 2007

Lalchand Rajput, who was coach of the Indian team in Australia last season, said a similar lack of match practice during the 2007-08 series, after rain marred the team's only three-day warm-up game, contributed to the 337-run defeat in the first Test in Melbourne.

"Not even one full day's play was possible (India batted for 48 overs against Victoria) and that had a role in our subsequent defeat in the first Test," Rajput said. "The practice game allows you to get used to the prevailing conditions as quickly as possible and to do that, you require at least one or two games."

Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI's chief administrative officer though, said due diligence had been carried out before the schedule was finalised. Asked whether the players were consulted on the schedule, he said: "We looked at all issues before finalising the itinerary."

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) said it was committed to providing the best practice facilities for the Indian team, especially the Test players, under the supervision of John Wright, the former India coach. Justin Vaughan, the NZC chief executive, said the extra Twenty20 game was added after a request from the New Zealand side.

"I spoke to the BCCI and made a very strong committment that we will provide, particularly for the Test-only players, the very best practice opportunites in New Zealand," Vaughan said. "John Wright, the former Indian coach, who now works with NZC, will take the responsibility to make sure that the players get adequate practice arrangements."

India played one practice match in Sri Lanka last year, one in Australia before the Melbourne defeat, and two in England a few months before that. In fact, the only away bilateral series in the recent past in which India did not play a warm-up game, was in Bangladesh in 2007.

The original New Zealand tour schedule did have a practice match but that was later scrapped to accommodate an extra Test on a request from the BCCI after it was forced to cancel its January tour to Pakistan following a government directive.

India have not won a Test in New Zealand in over three decades, and apart from the loss in the Test series last time, they were beaten 2-5 in the ODIs.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ed on January 17, 2009, 1:15 GMT

    Steady on there my Indian friends. It is actually summer at the moment in NZ, with temperatures reaching 30 on a good day. Sure, we can have the odd horribly cold day, but on the whole the weather in Feb/Mar should be pretty good.

    Sure a practise match would have helped, but with the extra test added, India can lose the first test and then come back and take the series 2-1.

    It should be a cracking series. I only hope the NZ selectors pick the right guys.

  • sunni on January 16, 2009, 14:50 GMT

    I understand all this talk about warmups but this criticism has come around too late for me. People say the Indians need warmup matches in New Zealand but i think people should have been on the BCCI case when the original schedule was made with just one game. In theory, Dravid couldve got out 1st ball in the warm-up game then the rain takes over. The original schedule shouldve included at least 2 warmups. I think the most sensible thing for the Indian team to do is play a 50 over match before the first test. Its gauranteed batting and bowling in one day just as SA did to start their tour in Australia.

  • Brendon on January 16, 2009, 12:27 GMT

    I would have to say, well played NZC, well played. We've upgraded to a 3 test series and weakened India's test squad by removing their warm up. It goes some way to making up for the BCCI removing Shane Bond.

  • sean on January 16, 2009, 9:06 GMT

    too much has been made of these 'green seaming wickets'. Hamilton and espicially will provide excellent opportunity for the batters to score big runs. A combination of India's last tour and the fact that NZ score low totals in tests on most pitches have led to a general thinking that all pitches will seam around crazily. That is simply not the case anymore

  • Harish on January 16, 2009, 7:36 GMT

    I think few people out here lack the wholesome knowledge of the game or as Farook Engineer used to say during the NeoCricket TV shows, they dont know their cricket properly. Cricket is not a mechanical game and is not played by pressing some buttons and some human beings go to play that game. When one travels to cold countries abroad, to do anything, one needs to be acclimatised to the new weather, especially like in India, February/ March will be the start of summer. Our cricket team suddenly taking to biting cold fields in NZ will surely miss for few days the natural fitness from within. Vengsarkar and Bedi are among the greatest cricketers ever representing India with distinction and I dont see anything wrong in their opinion. Past records show that past Indian teams with more practice games on tours have done well than those without.

  • ravishankar on January 16, 2009, 5:36 GMT

    There is no one stopping people from what Mathew Hayden did before touring India. Test players can visit the country ahead and play couple of matches with the local team. It may not count as 'first class' match practice, but would certainly reflect on the how much hunger and pride these 'pampered fools in flannels' have for success. I believe that they can fly (max of 12hrs) and dont have to sail as they previously did for a month.

  • Rajaram on January 16, 2009, 2:26 GMT

    Stupidity of the highest order. This is what happens when you have money-minded administrators who have never played cricket to run a cricket organization. Nor will they have the common sense to consult cricketers.

  • Benjamin on January 16, 2009, 2:25 GMT

    I think maybe people are a bit too caught up with the idea of New Zealand being 'cold and wed and windy.' Sure the conditions aren't those of the subcontinent, but that's not to say it will be disastrous. When England played at the same time last year, the weather was perfect and produced three good test matches. Maybe Indian fans think too heavily of their tour here before the 2003 World Cup, which was played on pitches that were green and favoured bowlers- but New Zealand pitches have flattened out dramatically since that time. One of the tests is to be played in Napier, one of the flattest grounds in the world! Hamilton too has proved a good batting surface; in the last few years these grounds have had one day scores in excess of 300 and test scores in the 400s and 500s. So while the Indian Test Team may not have a warm up game, the conditions shouldn't be as disastrous as many think. And besides, isn't their batting line up supposed to be the best in the world?

  • Swami on January 16, 2009, 1:33 GMT

    Its an extraordinary situation and I suppose BCCI is in a difficult position of having to honor its commitment to its sponsors of delivering a minimum number of international match days. I wouldnt blame BCCI too much for it. Its all very easy for the likes of Bedi to comment from the sidelines when he has no commitment at stake. India's overseas record is not pathetic as some people seem to be fond of reminding. They are frozen in early 90s and havent seen the record in the last 10 years. On the contrary I feel India's chances of winning are far better abroad than in India where they look more vulnerable. The bowlers in particular will enjoy bowling in cooler conditions and the opportunity to take 20 wickets without slogging it out, while the batsmen have sufficient ability and experience to cope. The players need to do something creative to prepare for the series without an official game.

  • Raj on January 15, 2009, 21:48 GMT

    India's record overseas is pathetic as it is, on top of that, no practice games will make them even less sharp. With a bad record overseas, the BCCI should have considered something that would increase their chances (practice games). I get the feeling the board is trying to make up the lost cash from the canceled Pakistan series. But I am not sure.

  • No featured comments at the moment.