India upbeat ahead of warm-up game against New Zealand

By Anand Philar

Chennai, Feb 15 (IANS) The last time India played New Zealand in a one-day game at Chepauk here was two months ago when the visitors tumbled to 103 all out and the under-strength hosts raced to an eight-wicket win to complete a 5-0 rout of the ODI series. The teams meet again Wednesday, though in a warm-up game ahead of the World Cup, one hopes it will not be a re-run of an old film.

Going into the game, both India and New Zealand are understandably upbeat, having won their respective warm-up matches over the weekend, but it will be a reality check for the visitors on the morrow.

The Indians upstaged champions Australia in Bangalore, successfully defending a modest total of 214 while the Kiwis ran riot against Ireland at Nagpur, piling up 311 with opener Martin Guptill chalking up 130 and then dismissing their opponents for 279 as skipper Daniel Vettori, the left-arm spinner, claimed four for 42.

The pitch at the renovated M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here played slow and low Saturday when South Africa beat Zimbabwe in a warm-up game. The surface came in for some adverse comments by the rival captains who felt the track was "under-prepared".

Of course, the Indians will not complain as they have more than enough players who bowl spin besides the specialists like Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla and local lad Ravichandran Ashwin.

Leg-spinner Chawla, a surprise selection, virtually destroyed the Aussies in Bangalore, taking four wickets as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni held back his seamers, who among them bowled only nine of the 37.5 overs that the Aussies lasted.

After the game, Dhoni made a tacit admission that he was keen on guarding his seamers against possible injury ahead of the World Cup and hence preferred to operate the spinners, who will again in the forefront against the Kiwis should the pitch favour them.

"The pitch was a bit damp when I looked at it, but can't say how it will behave," said Dhoni while confirming that Sachin Tendulkar would open the batting, but new ball bowler Zaheer Khan, nursing a "very mild groin strain" will be rested.

"We will be cautious and will not over-use our players at this stage," the skipper added during a media interaction ahead of a training session here Tuesday.

India tried out 13 of the 15 players in the squad for the Bangalore game, keeping out Tendulkar and Zaheer.

As for the Kiwis, their batsmen will come under scrutiny for their ability to handle spin. In the December game, they crumbled against spinners who took seven of the 10 wickets.

Thus, New Zealand have much more to gain and with first-hand inputs from coach John Wright, who handled the Indian team successfully for five years until 2005. The Kiwis are hoping for a turnaround after their recent string of ODI defeats against Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.


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