India look to extending Test cricket domination

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

AHMEDABAD - It has been a fantastic year for India and their great batsman Sachin Tendulkar. A clean sweep against Australia last month gave the Indians a firm grip on the number one ranking in Tests and they should not find it all that difficult to roll over a struggling young New Zealand side in the three-Test series, beginning here Thursday.

The first Test could also turn out to be significant for Tendulkar who is one short of his 50th hundred in Tests. He has run up 1,270 runs in nine Tests this year, hitting six centuries and a 98 to record a Bradmanesque average of 97.69. In such a terrific form, a century here is very much on the cards.

The Indian star also has an enviable record against New Zealand, having amassed 1,406 runs in 19 Tests.

After their convincing 2-0 victory in the Test series against Australia, India are naturally upbeat whereas the Black Caps have to show drastic improvement if they have to raise themselves up after their 0-4 ODI whitewash in Bangladesh.

The last time New Zealand played in India was in 2003 and it was a drawn series, with neither side winning any match. New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori is the only surviving member of that series. Vettori, 31, will be, turning out in his 100th Test for his country and needs 38 runs to become the third all-rounder after Kapil Dev and Ian Botham to complete 4,000 runs and 300 wickets in Test cricket.

The visitors have three unheralded players in the side — batsman Kane Williamson and fast bowlers Hamish Bennett and Andy McKay. Only Chris Martin and Brendon McCullum have played more than 50 Tests. Martin, who has taken 187 wickets in 56 Tests, will lead the pace attack with Vettori providing the spin support. McCullum will be the mainstay of the New Zealand batting.

Even the big hitting Ross Taylor has just 25 Test caps to his name.

On the other hand, the hosts have match winners Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and Virender Sehwag besides Tendulkar — all barring Sehwag, with 100 plus Tests under their belts. Add Gautam Gambhir to this illustrious list and India, perhaps, have the best batting line-up in the world.

The Indians have an equally potent attack with the experienced Zaheer Khan leading it with young Ishant Sharma and Shantakumaran Sreesanth doing their bit at the other end. Harbahajan Singh was equally impressive against the Australians.

Squads (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Shantakumaran Sreesanth, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra.

New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (captain), Brent Arnel, Hamish Bennett, Martin Guptill, Gareth Hopkins, Chris Martin, Brendon McCullum, Tim McIntosh, Andy McKay, Jeetan Patel, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.

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