This visit ought to be a redemption tour for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men, writes Ravi Shastri

Make no mistake: India might be World champions in Twenty20; they might be beginning to acquire an all-winning aura in one-dayers but it’s the Test honours they deeply crave for. Any cricketer worth his salt wants to be known by his Test record and all the riches and glamour of shorter formats of games aren’t enough of a compensation.

For all that has happened to Indian teams on these shores in decades gone by, this visit ought to be a redemption tour for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men.

Brilliant mix

In this purists’ version, India has a brilliant mix of dare and rare. Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag stay at the crease on their own terms; and the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman can dazzle the eye. The men following are Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni and you are beginning to have an idea of the quagmire which awaits Daniel Vettori and his team.

It’s no exaggeration that despite the baggage of history, this Indian team starts the series as favourites.

New Zealand’s best chance is to tame the fabled Indian batting and for it to happen, they need an ally in wicket. It seems a hard surface in Hamilton and should surely offer seam and swing. Indians would keep coming at them and how New Zealand squeezes the run-flow and at the same time pick up wickets would be key to their chances.

India would be strengthened by the induction of Laxmipathy Balaji who is clever and hungry. Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma would always need watching and if these three are sure starters, then leggie Amit Mishra might have to wait. Indians don’t quite field two spinners abroad these days but they ought to think again. Vettori and Jeetan Patel were more than handful against England in Hamilton last year. They would be looking to cock a snoop once again.

In rapid succession

Early exchanges would be important. The three Tests would happen in rapid succession and if any of the two teams was to lose its foothold, the chances of recovery would be all that slim.

New Zealand are doughty customers and they don’t lose without a fight.

Nearly all in their line-up can bat so early damages are no guarantee that they have been rolled over. India would need intensity and focus at all times. — TCM

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