Indian captain M.S. Dhoni believes that his team will win the two-match Test series against New Zealand, starting at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad on Thursday.
“Definitely, after the disappointment of losing the last eight Tests (in England and Australia), we can only look one way: ahead. We are in that process and are very keen to start on a positive note,” Dhoni said at the pre-match briefing on Wednesday.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong in preparing pitches, which suit spinners — not just in India but in the entire sub-continent. When you go abroad, you are prepared for certain kind of tracks. So, I hope the pitch here will take turn after the first couple of days. And the reddish soil content should also help the fast bowlers initially,” Dhoni said.
Dhoni admitted that the experience of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman would be missed.
“No doubt, the two great players will be missed. But, that’s how it is. It is an opportunity for the youngsters to step up and take responsibility,” he said.
“We have players like Virat (Kohli) and (Suresh) Raina who can take good catches. It will be a challenge for them. And, Sehwag is already fielding regularly in the slip cordon. So, it is not that we will be short of good fielders in the slips,” he said.
Dhoni, however, gave away nothing about the playing eleven for the first Test match. “I can’t announce the playing eleven before the match. You have to wait. Everyone is fit and available for selection,” he said.
“We have not played Test cricket for six to seven months now. So, we need to get the basics right. It is important we get into the groove. We have to have more respect for the bowlers,” Dhoni said.
When asked if the team is desperate to win a Test after eight consecutive losses, the Indian captain replied in the negative. “That means putting pressure on the bowlers. For, me the process is more important,” he said.
Dhoni shrugged off questions on Laxman being unable to get him on the phone before announcing his retirement.
“For you, there can be a controversy. People who know always complain about this. And, that’s why Lachu bhai could not get hold of me. I am trying to improve in this respect,” he said.
He also refused engage in a conversation on whether Laxman’s retirement was sudden and surprised him.
On his part, New Zealand captain Ross Taylor felt his side has to be positive.
“It might swing around a bit initially,” he said, hinting that he might play four seamers and a spinner in this Test. “James Franklin at No. 6 gives a good balance to the line-up,” he said.
“When you know you will not have to bowl to the likes of Rahul and Laxman, confidence goes up. But you have to put pressure on the youngsters who are going to replace them. We will attack them and try to put pressure,” Taylor said.
“We have plans for not just Sachin Tendulkar but for all the players. The focus is not only on certain individuals. The new coaching regime is full of strategies, and there is a great buzz in the team because of different theories. The team is responding to them well. “We are capable of pulling off some surprises.”