Glorious images from the past stare at you at Basin Reserve’s club house. Among the prized photographs is that of the great pace predator Richard Hadlee in full flight.
Those were also the days when cricketers fought hard for pride; there was little money in the game.
Times have changed. Cricket has been flooded with big bucks but is the game heading in the right direction?
The second Test begins here on Friday at a time when several questions are being asked. For a side 1-0 down and needing a win to save the series, this is hardly the ideal scenario.
The Indians, hampered by inclement weather, practised at the indoor facility at the Westpac Stadium. By afternoon though, the sun was out and the Kiwis had a full session at the Basin Reserve.
It rained here during the last four days but the forecast for the Test is reasonable. Some downpour is expected on day one and five. In between, the weather should be all right but for some cloud cover and strong winds.
The pitch for the Test has loads of grass; in fact, it appeared so green on Wednesday that it was hard to distinguish the outfield from the surface.
Under the covers for the past four days due to the showers, the surface could retain some moisture when the Test commences.
Some of the grass on the track might disappear but there should still be plenty remaining to encourage the seamers.
Bowling first is the right option. India captain M.S. Dhoni has been incredibly lucky with the tosses so far on this tour. Will it be Brendon McCullum’s turn to get it right this time?
For New Zealand, key batsman Ross Taylor could miss out as his wife is yet to deliver their second child. If Taylor is unavailable, the left-handed Tom Latham could take his place in the middle-order.
And pace-bowling all-rounder James Neesham might replace Ish Sodhi. Leg-spinner Sodhi was taken for runs by the Indians in the first Test — the pressure on India eased when he bowled — and the surface here is hardly likely to provide him any assistance. Neesham’s inclusion will strengthen New Zealand’s lower order as well.Unchanged XI likely
The Indians are likely to name an unchanged XI which means R. Ashwin could once again be left out.
Ravindra Jadeja came up with batting cameos and his fielding in the second innings was brilliant.
But then, Jadeja’s figures of 26-1-120-1 in the New Zealand first innings hardly justified his role as a steady left-armer who would do the holding job as Dhoni rotated his pacemen.
Actually, it makes sense to play an off-spinner since he can utilise the rough created by New Zealand’s three left-arm pacemen and India’s Zaheer Khan.
The Indian batsmen will face a stern test in conditions where swing bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult could be humming.
There could be considerable movement for the pacemen here; and some dip for spinners bowling against the wind.
After an ordinary outing in the first Test, Cheteshwar Pujara should be keen to prove a point or two. India will need his technical attributes in the demanding conditions here. If he comes good, the innings will have stability.
Seeing through spells, playing close to the body, and waiting for the bowlers to err in length is the right approach.
Of course, the Indian seamers will also have their opportunities against the Kiwis. Skipper McCullum and Kane Williamson are in form but this Kiwi line-up is prone to collapses.
India has a chance but has to play smart cricket.
India (from): M.S. Dhoni (capt.), M. Vijay, S. Dhawan, C. Pujara, V. Kohli, A. Rahane, Rohit Sharma, R. Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, M. Shami, R. Ashwin, A. Rayudu, U. Yadav, I. Pandey, W. Saha and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
New Zealand (from): B. McCullum (capt.), P. Fulton, H. Rutherford, K. Williamson, R. Taylor, C. Anderson, B.J. Watling, J. Neesham, T. Southee, T. Boult, N. Wagner, I. Sodhi and T. Latham.
Play starts at 3.30 am (IST) on Friday.