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The Preview by Kanishkaa Balachandran
February 24, 2009
The Big PictureOne of the most eagerly-awaited bouts in New Zealand over the last few seasons gets underway tomorrow with the first of two Twenty20 internationals. New Zealand Cricket has branded the famed Indian cricketers as "Rockstars" and for good reason, given the hefty monetary benefits the board stands to gain out of every match day. The Indians also bring with them the tag of Twenty20 world champions, which sets up this two-match leg as an exciting start to what promises to be a fulfilling summer.
Though India are fortunate enough to be playing in the second half of the summer - which is generally warmer and relatively free of rain - acclimatising to the windy conditions will be a challenge early on. The bowlers have been practising running in against the wind since setting foot in the country. New Zealand are coming off a satisfactory tour of Australia in which they pushed the home team hard in the one-dayers. However, India are coming off a close victory in the Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, while New Zealand buckled under pressure to the Australians in Sydney.
Twenty20 form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
Team newsBoth teams decided not to name their XII on the eve of the game. New Zealand understandably couldn't because they're waiting on the fitness of two key players, Ross Taylor and Jacob Oram. Taylor, who suffered a hamstring injury during the Chappell-Hadlee Series, showed positive signs of a recovery at the nets and his captain Daniel Vettori was pleased with what he saw. He said a final decision will be taken tomorrow. Oram is set to make his long-awaited comeback, but only as a batsman.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Brendon McCullum (wk), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Jesse Ryder, 4 Ross Taylor/Neil Broom, 5 Grant Elliott, 6 Jacob Oram, 7 Nathan McCullum, 8 Daniel Vettori, 9 Ian Butler, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Iain O'Brien.
India don't have any such injury concerns but Mahendra Singh Dhoni preferred to keep the team a surprise. "I'm the sort of guy who doesn't really believe in announcing the XII," he said. "People say if you announce the XII you'll have 12 guys who are really focussed, but I have no problem having 14 guys who are really focussed."
India (probable) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt and wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Yusuf Pathan, 9 Irfan Pathan, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Ishant Sharma
Watch out for ...Yusuf Pathan: The older of the Pathan brothers made audiences sit up during the IPL with his big hitting, but his transition into the Indian team hasn't been smooth. However, on the tour of Sri Lanka he began to find his feet as a useful batting allrounder. In the Twenty20 in Colombo, his solid blows against the spinners turned the match in India's favour after Sri Lanka, at one stage, looked to take the game away. The smaller grounds in New Zealand could be a huge advantage for him.
New Zealand's gen next: The side has more unknowns compared to the one in 2002-03, but it doesn't make them less exciting. Leading the pack is Martin Guptill, one-day cricket's latest debut centurion. Guptill has a strong pull shot and was impressive in Australia, hitting an unbeaten 64 in one of the games. The middle order has exciting strokeplayers, and the swift Iain O'Brien may be in his 30s, but he has settled in well to the limited-overs set-up after being labelled a Test specialist.
Pitch & conditionsThe forecast is for morning showers but it's expected to remain cloudy through the day. Dhoni said the weather has been fairly chilly, and it will be interesting to see how quickly India adjust.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"There are a lot of guys who have played under ten games but a lot of those were won, so when you have that feeling within the team coupled with some experienced players, it makes for confidence about their performances. We're hoping to continue on that, the likes of the Mark Guptills and Neil Brooms being fantastic in the short time they've been there and we're hoping they can capitalise on what they've done in a short period of time."
"John will know the psychology of each and every Indian player. That psychological part of the input given by John will help them."
Dhoni on the how New Zealand stand to gain with John Wright's expertise.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at CricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
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