New Zealand, who are coming off a terrible tour of Bangladesh, go into the Tests against India as clear underdogs. They have not won a Test in India since their triumph at Mumbai in 1988, and given the lack of form and experience of this squad, the winless streak is likely to continue. They start the series at a venue that is one of India's less successful ones over the last decade, but that is unlikely to bother the home team too much. In matches played in Ahmedabad since 2000, India have won one Test, against Sri Lanka, but lost to South Africa by an innings. The last game played in Ahmedabad was a dull high-scoring draw in which seven centuries were scored. New Zealand had a more settled outfit when they drew at this venue in 2003, but with an inexperienced team this time around, they could struggle to compete with an in-form India, who are fresh off a 2-0 series win over Australia.
Ahmedabad has proved to be a batting-friendly venue in matches since 2000. Apart from the one occasion when India were bowled out for 76 against South Africa, batsmen have generally found the going quite comfortable across all four innings of matches. The average in the first and second innings of matches is 37.86 and 44.90 while the averages in the third and fourth innings are 36.41 and 35.36. Visiting teams have done slightly better than India in both the batting and bowling departments in matches played since 2000. New Zealand bowlers average 54.34 in all Tests in India since 2000, which is the worst among all Test playing nations. Their record at Ahmedabad is even poorer and the inexperienced attack is likely to face a stern test against the powerful Indian batting.
Dale Steyn's 5 for 23 in April 2008 is the best performance by a pace bowler in Ahmedabad since 2000. At a venue that has traditionally suited spinners better, fast bowlers average over 43 with just one five-for, while spinners have averaged 39.02, with five five-wicket hauls and two ten-wicket hauls.
After a horror tour of New Zealand in 2002-03, Indian batsmen have done well against the New Zealand bowlers both home and away. In the last series played in New Zealand, Gautam Gambhir was the best batsman, aggregating 445 runs including a superb match-saving hundred in Napier. Rahul Dravid, who hasn't been in top form in 2010, has been India's best batsman in matches against New Zealand since 2000. Virender Sehwag, surprisingly, averages only 27 in seven matches with one hundred.
Among New Zealand's batsmen, Daniel Vettori, Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder all average more than 50 against India since 2000, though Taylor and Ryder have played only three Tests. Vettori's numbers clearly show his growing stature as a batsman. Ryder and Taylor shared a record 271-run partnership for the fourth wicket in that Napier Test, and their form will be crucial to New Zealand's chances.
Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan have been India's most successful bowlers over the last two years in Test cricket. Zaheer was exceptional in the series against Australia, troubling most batsmen with reverse swing. Ishant Sharma, who missed the second Test against Australia, has been quite inconsistent, though, and averages over 40 in the last two years.
Vettori has been New Zealand's best bowler for almost a decade now and his experience and consistency stands out in an otherwise weak bowling attack. Chris Martin, who picked up 14 wickets at an average of 32 in the series against India at home last year, leads a highly inexperienced pace attack.
Indian batsmen have handled the best spinners comfortably over the years. Given that Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan average over 40 in Tests in India, Vettori would be fully aware of the huge challenge ahead. He has picked up 12 wickets at 58.25 in seven Tests against India since 2000, but his average goes up to nearly 67 in Tests in India in the same period. Among Indian batsmen, Gambhir and VVS Laxman have handled him best while he has had some degree of success against Sachin Tendulkar. Sehwag, who has a strike rate of almost 82 in Tests, has managed to score at just over two runs per over off Vettori.