Overcast conditions to keep pacers interested

Cricket : Rain threat looms large over second Test beginning today

India has certainly acquired the bragging rights with their crushing innings and 115-run win over New Zealand in the first Test at Hyderabad that handed them a 1-0 in the two-match series, and you would naturally expect a few veiled threats to the opposition about their fate in the upcoming match.

Those familiar with the all-conquering Australian side of the mid 90s and in the turn of this century would understand such tactics.

But ahead of their second Test against Kiwis, beginning at the M Chinnaswamy stadium on Friday, Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni opted for a much more polite approach.

Perhaps, the fight New Zelanders displayed during their last visit to India was still lingering on Dhoni’s mind. “You don't have to be overconfident. That has never been the case with us. We are a team which respects the opponents wherever we are playing, and that's one good thing with us. So, whatever right we did in the first Test we have to repeat everything. We don't want to complicate things too much,” Dhoni said.

New Zealand pacers might not have made much impact at Hyderabad, but the greenish pitch and the overcast conditions, expected to haunt the Test over the next five days at varying intensity, could favour the Kiwi pace battery. It has also been raining in the City for the past few days, and the predictions are for more rains in the coming days, putting the fate of the Test under elements’ mercy.

“I think they have a good bowling side especially on this kind of wicket. In overcast conditions they will come up with good bowling plan and execute them well.”

Dhoni has always stressed on the importance of preparing spin-friendly pitches in India, basing his logic on the fact that Indian batsmen would encounter pacy, bouncy pitches abroad. “We have put our request through for turning tracks. Let’s see. The subcontinental speciality is spin and I think we should stick to it. Of course, in the last match the spinners got lot of wickets but still I thought it was a hard working wicket for them. I personally felt if we can get a bit more spin and bounce for the spinners it will be really good.”

Dhoni was not so candid when asked about team combination. Since New Zealand batsmen struggled against spinners Ashwin and Ojha at Hyderabad, many were keen to know whether India would draft in the third spinner -- Piyush Chawla. Dhoni preferred to keep the combination under wraps.

“It’s up to the groundsmen to do the changes. They are still working on the wicket so that's the reason I said will have a final look at the wicket before the start of the game and then decide about the best playing combination.”

But this time there were clear indications about the batsmen’s slots. There have been some speculation about in-form Virat Kohli getting pushed up the order to number three, bringing Pujara down the order. Dhoni rested the case emphatically. “Pujara will bat at No 3 and Virat will bat at his position (number 5) for the time being,” he said.

Dhoni also shed light on the fitness of Pujara. The Saurashtra batsman suffered a heavy blow on his right knee while fielding at forward short leg in the first Test. Dhoni was confident about Pujara’s availability. “There are no other injury worries. Pujara is a bit sore at this point. But the good thing is that he batted today at the nets and also fielded. He got a hard hit which means it will take some time to heal, but I don't think it’s restricting him on the field. I think he will be available.”

Comments (+)