S. Ram Mahesh

Dhoni stresses on the importance of counsel from the seniors in the team

HAMILTON: M.S. Dhoni, the Indian captain, said ahead of the first Test against New Zealand that the experienced cricketers in his side had made life easy for him; all he had to do in moments of crisis was seek their counsel.

“They are real assets,” said Dhoni, referring to Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, and V.V.S. Laxman. “Not only from batting point of view, they have a fair amount of input when it comes to the bowling as well. It helps you as a skipper, when you look around and you see guys who have played over a 100 Tests. There’s plenty of experience floating around in the ground. If you are having tough time, you can go to any of them and they will sort that problem out for you.”

Dhoni added that youngsters in the side had gained immensely from talking to those that had done it all. “Experience does count, especially when it comes to the longer format,” he said. “If you are a batsman, you can read what the bowler’s plan is and you have time to change your game.

“In the same way experienced bowlers like Zaheer (Khan) and Harbhajan (Singh) guide the youngsters. But at the end of they day you have to adapt. There’s been plenty of talk with the seniors, but ultimately you are the one who has to do it.”

Not worried

Asked if India’s poor Test record in New Zealand bothered him, Dhoni said, “I am not great when it comes to stats, so that really helps. (Besides, before this tour) we hadn’t won a one-day series here as well. We’re not talking about what has happened in the past. That’s one thing beyond our control. Whatever has happened has happened. We are just focusing on the process, and what we need to do as a team.”

There has plenty of talk in the local media about this Indian team having some of the most decorated cricketers to have visited these shores, but Dhoni chose to focus on the team, not its individual constituents.

“We don’t rely on individuals,” he said. “If you see our record in the past one-and-a-half year, we don’t rely only on batsman. Bowlers on flat tracks have come out with plenty of aggression. They have got the best batsmen out because of their consistency and their plans and the execution. We have been good totally as a team.”

Vettori’s high rating

Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, agreed with Dhoni’s assessment. “Their recent form dictates that India is on par with Australia and South Africa in Test cricket,” he said. “Those three teams seem to be battling away for that number-one spot.”

Vettori added that playing against a top side such as India allowed New Zealand’s cricketers the opportunity for accelerated development.

“For our bowlers, anytime you get one of those players out, it can be one of your best memories in cricket. If a guy steps up and gets five or six wickets against this much vaunted batting line-up, that’s going to be a special day for the bowler and vice-versa, if someone scores runs.

“So we are trying to challenge the guys in the team through that aspect as well as trying to win games for New Zealand.”

Vettori emphasised the importance of provoking India into error, not settling for inches gained in a battle of attrition.

“If you look at the Indian top-order, it is very impressive with their weight of games and weight of runs,” he said.

“You have got to take them on. The war of attrition probably won’t work. I think we have got to be aggressive but in saying that, we have got to be disciplined. Those are the things we didn’t quite get right in the one-day series.

“We didn’t stick at our plans for long enough. In a Test match you just have to do that, otherwise a side like India will blow you off the park.”

Start time confirmed

Meanwhile, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) has confirmed that play will start as scheduled at 11 a.m. (3.30 a.m. IST) on all days of the first Test.

NZC and its Asian broadcast partner Sony held recent discussions over scheduling arrangements, including the possibility of delaying the start time to noon (4.30 a.m. IST) to help viewers in India watch more of the action.

After discussions with Sony, and with the teams and match officials, it has now been confirmed that the start time will remain at 11 a.m.

Start times for the second and third Tests are expected to be confirmed in the next few days.

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