India in New Zealand 2013-14 February 12, 2014

More grass and pace awaits India


Tim Southee was asked whether he could tell the pitch from the outfield at the Basin Reserve. He smiled, saying it was "tough" to do so at the moment. You had to squint to make out the pitch from the boundary. It was the slightly thinner grass rectangle amid all the green. Much before the start of the India tour, New Zealand coach Mike Hesson had demanded green, seaming pitches for the visitors.

The pitch in Auckland for the first Test had some grass cover, but it eased out considerably after only one session. There is still some time to go for the start of the second and final Test, and there is no saying whether all the grass on it will stay, but this one is likely to do a lot more than the drop-in surface at Eden Park.

There has been some rain in Wellington past few days, and pitch preparation has not been ideal. It also means there will be at least some moisture underneath that grass going into the Test, even though days are warm and long at this time of the year. The last Test at the Basin a couple of months ago lasted three days, as West Indies were shot out for 193 and 175 to lose by an innings.

Brett Sipthorpe, the curator, said he was targeting a similar pitch for India. "It's had good pace and bounce in it this summer and basically we're aiming for exactly what we had for the West Indies one," Sipthorpe told local media. "That was nice and bouncy and had a little bit of nip around, which suits the seamers."

The pitch didn't have a massive role to play in West Indies' demolition, though. They won the toss, sent New Zealand to bat and found that the surface wasn't going to do everything for them. They could not bowl fuller lengths consistently, they could not hold their catches, and Ross Taylor's century lifted New Zealand to 441. When their turn came, the West Indies batsmen kept playing strokes and kept succumbing, especially to Trent Boult's considerable inswing.

Boult picked up ten wickets in that Test, and swing will be another factor to contend with in Wellington. The famed wind is always a challenge, although Southee said when there was too much of it, swing ceased to be as much of a factor. "I think when it is too windy or gusty, it is hard to swing," Southee said. "When it is a nice still day, it tends to swing a little bit more, but those are few and far between. It is one of those grounds where the wind is a massive factor and you have to get used to it quickly."

MS Dhoni also mentioned the wind aspect after the Auckland Test, saying it would lead to a "few exciting things", although his assessment of it assisting swing was at odds with Southee's. "It is a very windy place, which means the fast bowlers may get a bit of swing," Dhoni said. "Faster outfield so the scoring can be quite easy if you are hitting with the wind."

When India played a Test here on their 2009 trip, which they would have likely won but for rain on the final day, the pitch was not as green. When asked about the Wellington pitch this time after the Auckland Test, Dhoni said he preferred greener surfaces, which his fast bowlers could utilise.

"I always complain when we get wickets that are on the drier side and don't assist the fast bowlers too much," Dhoni said. "That is where we struggle to some extent. I personally always like when we are playing outside the subcontinent, a greener wicket as it assists our fast bowlers and they can get the opposition out which means it will be testing for our batsmen but I always prefer it that way."

At the moment, Dhoni's wishes also seem to have been answered along with Hesson's. The pitch is abundantly green two days before the Test, but how much of the grass will stay? The curator seemed to suggest most of it would. "It just depends on what the weather brings us. If we have to take a little more off we will, but we don't want to lose our pace and grass cover is pace," Sipthorpe said. "We'll do everything we can to try to keep as much grass on as we possibly can."

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Aniket on February 13, 2014, 17:46 GMT

    Good to see NZ preparing green and pacy tracks. India's young batting lineup will learn tons from this exposure and will be better off for it.

    However I have one small gripe here. NZ are well within their rights to prepare a pitch to suit their strengths at home. However had it been an Indian curator, captain or coach preparing/asking for turning tracks, all hell would have broken loose. A green-top nullifies spinners' role just as much as a square turner nullifies fast bowlers. Double standards need to be abolished for good here

    Somehow people from Eng/Aus/NZ/SA seem unable to make a distinction between a square turner and a flat track. As long as a pitch isn't flat as a road for a test match, it's well and good.

    So kiwis, good on you for making a green top. But (this is not a threat at all) when you visit India next, and I hope it happens more often, and you are greeted with a rank turner, have the grace to appreciate the different conditions and unique challenges. GL NZ & IND.

  • syed on February 13, 2014, 7:39 GMT

    dhawan, vijay, pujara, kohli, rohit, dhoni, jadeja, zaheer, shami, ishwar, ishant should be the team to play. I believe we should go with four fast bowlers, so that they can give 100% in each of their spell. Dhoni should used them in short spells of 4 overs each.

  • Santosh on February 13, 2014, 6:46 GMT

    Ishwar Pandey was bought by CSK for 1.5 and Dhoni said he is not prepared, it was all to keep him uncapped to buy cheaply, still got good price. Now he is a CSK guy and every chance of being picked in this Test match...Cheap politics and that too ahead of national pride, Dhoni is more worried about his franchise than team India. Ishwar is best in current lot of bowlers and he has proved this in South Africa and warm up match in current series still not picked..just to buy him uncapped with less money...India is not playing with in-form players in this series just because of favoritism...

  • Dummy4 on February 13, 2014, 5:00 GMT

    I bet Dhoni will play the same 11. India will win the toss and bowl. Nz will make 500 and this time mcullum will enforce the follow on and India will lose in 3 and the half day. No new players will be tried in the bowling department. Now all the focus on the IPL and worldT20.

  • raj on February 13, 2014, 4:50 GMT

    @ ShanNachimuthu on (February 13, 2014, 4:16 GMT) - Agree with your sentiments. India requires more bowlers and they also need to inject more pace. Would love to see Yadav, Aaron and Shami bowl in tandem, at full throttle. However, Aaron is not in the Test squad so let's give Ishwar Pandey a go. I have a feeling that the Indian "think-tank" will get carried away with the second innings bowling performance and employ the same bowlers! It has worked once in many tests and the weaknesses are all too apparent. They need to make the big calls and implement the required changes.

  • Shanmugam on February 13, 2014, 4:16 GMT

    Need to strengthen the bowling department. My choice of XI, Dhawan, Rahane, Pujara, Kholi, Dhoni, Rohit, Jadeja, Ishwar, Ishant, Shami, Umesh. Jadeja is included as a batman who can bowl a bit. You don't need extra bastman if you enough have bowlers to bowl NZ out less than 250. Having extra batsman in this seaming condition will not make any big difference. So, treat Jadeja as a batsman and he can even be asked open the innings with Dhawan. He looks fearless while batting and very good fielder. If he clicks as opener it will be a huge boost for India. Zak looking tired after bowling couple of overs. He needs a rest (!!!). This is one last opportunity to test our bench strength in bowling. So, Team India whatever happened we have no control over that to alter it. Learn from it and leave it. But we can control the future. So put up a fight and give your best. Let Dhoni loose the toss time and leave the headache of deciding what to do to NZ.

  • henry on February 13, 2014, 4:14 GMT


    makes no difference if you don't have someone at first slip who can catch ...two in one game...sitters...unless that changes, the game will be over in three days.

  • Beau on February 13, 2014, 3:32 GMT

    Bit of risk either way here for NZ. Too green and you bring the Indian seamers, who look ordinary when it's flat, into the game. Too flat, and it's going to be tough to dismiss Kohli and co. twice.

    Personally, I'd shave it, back the NZ seamers to outbowl the Indians, and protect the NZ batsmen a bit.

  • Rishi on February 13, 2014, 2:59 GMT

    Whover is saying Rahane cant play outside subcontinent, check out his home and away averags. I think home is like 4 something, while away is above 50

  • henry on February 13, 2014, 1:19 GMT

    no Taylor to prop up the middle order is a worry for NZ...Good luck to the new guys but man there appears to be a lot of pressure now on Williamson and McCullum to see it through....Hope not another SA/ England / Eden Park batting effort. The good thing I suppose, is those low scores are getting higher each time so progress is being made for sure.

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