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Abhishek Purohit in Whangarei
February 1, 2014
Whoever draws up the Indian team's schedule must find it hard to differentiate between men and machines. MS Dhoni and his men have been given the luxury of a single day's break after the late-night finish to the ODI series on Friday, before they begin their sixth match in a fortnight - a two-day warm-up before the Tests.
On that rest day, they had to take a morning flight from Wellington to Auckland and then make a bus trip further north to Whangarei, to play a New Zealand XI composed of fringe domestic players and a few Under-19 ones.
Regardless of the quality of the opposition, India will feel fortunate the weather appears clear enough to allow the game to go ahead. On their previous trip to South Africa, their warm-up for the Tests was limited to practice sessions because rain wiped out the tour game in Benoni.
The new arrivals M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav and Wriddhiman Saha joined the rest of the squad two nights before the Wellington ODI. They will have had three days to acclimatise to this isolated part of the world ahead of the Whangarei match.
Whangarei is the northernmost of all the North Island venues this series and appears extremely calm and quiet, even by New Zealand standards. The Indians probably won't mind that at all. They have next to no time to forget the 0-4 drubbing in the one-dayers, to forget they have failed to win their last seven ODIs, and refocus their minds to the longest format. These surroundings will only help them.
Their opponents - the New Zealand XI - have been in the news only because of two high-profile pullouts that have robbed the side of whatever star quotient it had. Test openers Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford were picked initially to have a first look at the Indian attack in Whangarei. Just after the announcement Fulton, who was to have led the team, pulled out. He decided that a first-class Plunket Shield match was a far more intensive workout than a single-innings practice fixture. Rutherford followed suit, and promptly cracked 108 off 107 balls for Otago against Auckland at Eden Park's outer oval, adjacent to where the first Test will be played.
There are only four days until the start of the first Test. India will hope that time and the five fresh faces will be enough to overcome those four demoralising ODI losses.
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