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'The writing is on the wall for New Zealand'

Mark Richardson and Danny Morrison on what to expect during New Zealand's tour of India as they try to restore pride after the Bangladesh disaster (12:53)

Producers: Akhila Ranganna and Siddhartha Talya

November 1, 2010

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New Zealand in India 2010-11

'The writing is on the wall for New Zealand'

November 1, 2010

Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum wait for their turns to bat, Wellington, April 1, 2009
Danny Morrison: "The pressure on the previous vice-captain, Brendon McCullum, or the current second-in-command, Ross Taylor, is great" © Getty Images

New Zealand will begin their tour of India with no expectations. Even their coach, Mark Greatbatch, has written them off after their 4-0 loss to Bangladesh in the one-day series. Worse, he has questioned the commitment of their senior players. And they're up against the No. 1 Test team in world, who are fresh from a 2-0 win against Australia. They haven't played a full series in India for seven years, and captain Daniel Vettori is the only player in New Zealand's 15-member squad to have played Tests in India before. But sometimes being written off before a series can also be an advantage. In fact Mark Richardson , who played 38 Tests for New Zealand, averaging close to 45, thinks their pathetic performance in Bangladesh could fire them up.

Mark Richardson: I don't think New Zealand are demoralised after what happened in Bangladesh. If anything, they are motivated. They've taken a lot of heat here in New Zealand for what they've done. The senior players know they're better than that and they're going to a place where they play those whom they respect and know are good players. That will motivate them. They took Bangladesh lightly, the hosts got on top of them and New Zealand couldn't fight them off. When they get to India, they've got a lot to prove. I don't think they'll be struggling to regroup. In fact, they'll be hugely motivated because they simply have to perform or the whole country is going to turn on them very quickly.

After the disastrous Bangladesh tour, New Zealand Cricket set up a committee to look into the defeat. No major changes were suggested; instead the players were told to turn things around in India. But a tour of India is never easy. Just how much pressure is on captain and selector Daniel Vettori?

Richardson: I don't think Vettori's captaincy is under threat. People understand that he is the best man for the job. It's more a case of whether he should be selecting and perhaps even coaching. People must stand and say, "Let's take the selecting off him and whatever coaching he does and he should be just a normal player." The first thing Vettori did after returning from Bangladesh was take it on the chin, say that he is responsible for the performance of his team and if there is a call for him to stand down as captain, he will. I don't think he wants to relinquish that role. He said he only wants it until the end of the World Cup. That would be a shame because he is still taking a bit of time to find his space as a captain.

He has been let down by the senior players - Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, and some of the senior bowlers. McCullum and Taylor are the guys who are supposed to be world-class and they do chip in with such performances but not enough. Whatever Vettori does, he can't score the runs for these guys. He can't do all the bowling, he can't make 125kph bowlers bowl at 145kph, and he can't select such fast bowlers because they don't exist in New Zealand. He's doing what he can and as a player he's been outstanding once given the captaincy. It's lifted his own performance.

While there may be no questions about the captaincy for the time being, it is Vettori's role as the lead spinner in Indian conditions that will be under the scanner. Danny Morrison, the former New Zealand fast bowler, played his last Test in the same series as the one in which Vettori debuted, in 1997. Morrison is confident that Vettori the captain can move ahead from Bangladesh. But he is not convinced that Vettori the spinner will be just as successful.

Danny Morrison: It'll be very difficult. He [Vettori] doesn't spin the ball and lot. He will have to bowl a lot of overs and there'll be responsibility on him. The Indians play spin so well, they can just negate Vettori and be happy to see him off, play some aggressive shots if they're feeling in good touch and try to dine out and attack the other end. That's often been the case. Sides have been happy to blunt Vettori. It's been a long time since he ran through a line-up and took a six-wicket bag. I can remember a six-wicket haul in Perth but that was in late 2001, when he was spinning the ball a lot more, getting that lovely loop and getting that extra bounce, which you obviously have in Australia. But that spin factor is a worry, given the volume of cricket he's played in the last 13 years, he just can't do that.

New Zealand's inexperience in the fast-bowling department is likely to hurt them most. You have 35-year-old Chris Martin leading the attack. While Martin has played 56 Tests, not one has been in India. Hamish Bennett and Andy McKay, are yet to make their Test debuts; and Tim Southee and Brent Arnel haven't played a Test in the subcontinent. Morrison picked up three five-wicket hauls against India in New Zealand's home series in 1990. What did he think the current lot could do to trouble India's powerful batting line-up in far tougher conditions?

"Whatever Vettori does, he can't score the runs for the senior players. He can't do all the bowling, he can't make 125 kph bowlers bowl at 145 kph and he can't select such fast bowlers because they don't exist in New Zealand. He's doing what he can and as a player he's been outstanding once given the captaincy. It's lifted his own performance" Mark Richardson

Morrison: You're up against Virender Sehwag. He's a different customer. So if you're really trying to go for it, you've simply got to be over the top of off stump, tight in that corridor. And then you can set him up. The Australians tried doing that with a slower bouncer and then a quicker bouncer. But having said that, it's hard to get away from the ideal length.

I had the good fortune of rooming with Richard Hadlee in 1988 when touring India and [he said] you need to be in that corridor, that lovely length where a batsman is not quite forward and not quite back. And then get to swing the ball while it is new, use the bouncer as an option and [bowl] from wide of the crease while you swing it. When it gets older, reverse swing is such an important component of the modern game, and there are opportunities when you are in the groove as a quick bowler. So it's Southee, Martin and McKay - he's got a bit of a chance, he swings it away from left-hander and brings it back in to the right-hander - and Arnel, who swings it a little as well. They're all tall, big men - Bennett is about 6'2". If they bowl the right lengths, they'll get some of that movement and a bit of bounce, inconsistent bounce as there is in India, where it gets low and slow sometimes.

Bennett has had an impressive start to his international career with three wickets in his first ODI in Bangladesh. He looks an exciting prospect with his open-chested action and pace - something New Zealand have been sorely missing after Shane Bond's retirement. Richardson, however, advises caution.

Richardson: When we select players like Hamish Bennett here on the promise that they might be quite quick, hoping they're the next Shane Bond… what happened after we lost Richard Hadlee was, we searched for years to find a replacement for him and it didn't come for a long time, until Bond hit the scene. I think we are going to struggle to find a replacement for Bond because he was so good. Bennett's another young guy who can hit the bat pretty hard. I wouldn't say I was wowed when I saw him bowl. He will have to be very good with his trade. He bowls with some reasonable pace and has got some talent, but he's not a guy who's going to wow Indian crowds.

On New Zealand's previous tour of India - a drawn series in 2003 - Richardson was one of the stars, scoring a solid 145 in Mohali. This time they have Tim McIntosh and BJ Watling at the top of the order, while Brendon McCullum, according to Greatbatch, is likely to be promoted to No. 3. With Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder in the middle order, New Zealand's batting is definitely far more experienced than their bowling. But Richardson thinks the surprise package could likely be debutant Kane Williamson, who scored a hundred in Bangladesh.

Kane Williamson flicks to leg side, New Zealand A v England Lions, 2nd test, Lincoln, 4th day, March 10, 2009
Richardson on Kane Williamson: "The stories you hear about him are the same: about the drive, determination and the way he's developed a process to his batting that a young Martin Crowe had" © Getty Images

Richardson: Kane Williamson is one of the bigger batting talents New Zealand have seen for a while. The stories you hear about him are the same: about the drive, determination and the way he's developed a process to his batting that a young Martin Crowe had. This lad wants to perform, and given some time he'll become a really good batsman and a consistent one for New Zealand.

I think BJ Watling and Tim McIntosh will get the nod and you're relying on Taylor at No. 4. But the key is, it's not a case of who comes in and fills gaps, it's who's good enough. And this is the problem with New Zealand's batting - it's not a case of who's out of order and who should be opening or batting at No.6. It's simply that we struggle to find six consistently good Test-quality batsmen and a team, as a result, can be found wanting for quality. We've got what we've got and it's obvious where they'll be batting - they're up against the No.1 Test team in the world. Are they good enough? We'll find out.

For Morrison, the series will be a test of leadership for the team's senior members.

Morrison: Vettori is batting further up the order these days, whether he does that in the Tests remains to be seen. The pressure on the previous vice-captain, Brendon McCullum, or the current second-in-command Ross Taylor is great. They'll feel they missed out badly against Bangladesh, and they've got a point to prove. They have done quite well in Tests in recent times but haven't played a lot. It's hard to gauge really. So they have to take the responsibility, and they are gifted players. New Zealand will look to Taylor, McCullum and Vettori, Jesse Ryder and young Martin Guptill - who was in Zimbabwe with the A team recently - to get the bulk of the runs. Whether young Kane Williamson or BJ Watling get a go, time will tell. But the senior players simply have to step up because they didn't in Bangladesh.

Given the problems with the bowling, and the lack of experience and consistency, both Richardson and Morrison ruled out any possibility of an upset.

Richardson: We're going to struggle to bowl India out for a start. Winning a Test is probably out of the question. It's whether they can hold India off for long enough. There is some talent and ability there - the likes of Taylor, Ryder, McCullum and Vettori as well. If these guys can basically pull their fingers out and perform with the bat, I think we will get runs on the board, even though our batting has come under threat.

What matters is your ability to bowl a team out. Unfortunately you can only be aggressive with your quicks if you've got quicks. I'm just concerned that in Indian conditions we won't get 20 wickets, so we'll always be playing to not lose as opposed to win.

Morrison: The writing is on the wall. This is a very difficult series that they could lose 0-3. I'm being realistic about that because of the way India have been playing, beating Australia 2-0. They [India] are a well-balanced and really confident outfit with some of the greats of all time. You're up against that lot, trying to get them out, try to get them out twice. Things need to go New Zealand's way, like the toss, a bit of luck here and there, getting the best of batting conditions... and they don't want to be batting last, up against Harbhajan and Co. All those sorts of things need to go New Zealand's way if they're going to be in the series and make it competitive, because 0-3 is really on the wall for them.

Things look bleak for New Zealand, who have never won a Test series in India. But it's also an opportunity for them, especially the senior members, to restore some pride after the Bangladesh tour, which Vettori described as the one of the lowest points in New Zealand cricket. With Siddhartha Talya, this is Akhila Ranganna for ESPNcricinfo.

Posted by mikriket on (November 2, 2010, 4:54 GMT)

This series is the last thing the Black Caps need. All the chances are that they will be wiped out and totally demorailised.

Posted by bnb612 on (November 1, 2010, 6:17 GMT)


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