Over the past year, India may have had two of their most humiliating series defeats in England and Australia, but their recent home record remains respectable. A major factor in that has been the spin pair of R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, who between them have taken 60 wickets in the previous four home Tests. Watching New Zealand's batsmen grope and prod at the spinning ball last week during the Hyderabad Test, you'd think the BCCI has decided to play to India's strength by preparing turning tracks. MS Dhoni, though, wasn't convinced the home surfaces are helpful enough to India's spinners.
"Frankly, we were expecting turning tracks, the last two wickets I don't see them as turning tracks," he said a day ahead of the Bangalore Test. "This wicket also doesn't look like a turning track. We have put our request through and after that whatever wickets are provided we'll have to play on them."
Despite Ashwin and Ojha dominating the Hyderabad Test, Dhoni urged curators to prepare tracks with more bite for the spinners. "You know the subcontinental speciality should be spin and I think we should stick to it. In the last match the spinners got lots of wickets but still I thought it was a hard-working wicket for them. Ashwin bowled brilliantly and Ojha had to keep it tight so I felt like if we can get a bit more spin and bit more bounce for the spinners it will be really good."
Much of India's home success in the 1990s had come using a three-spinner strategy, the most prominent trio being Anil Kumble, Venkatapathy Raju and Rajesh Chauhan. When asked whether India were pondering using that tactic in Bangalore, Dhoni scoffed, "Have you seen the wicket?" suggesting that he expected it to assist the quick bowlers.
While India rely heavily on spin, New Zealand are dependent on their fast bowlers, frequently deploying a four-quicks strategy in recent times. "I think they have a good bowling side especially on this kind of wicket and in overcast conditions they will come up with a good bowling plan and execute their plans well," Dhoni said. "Hyderabad was a bit different as there was not much for the pacers, still their fast bowlers got wickets."
That's one reason India were not complacent despite the all-too-easy victory in Hyderabad. "You don't need to be overconfident, that has never been the case with us," Dhoni said. "We are a side that respects the opponents whoever we are playing, wherever we are playing. Whatever we did right in the first Test, we will have to repeat everything."