Sans a warm-up game, India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni hoped Saturday that five days of practice at the Nelson Park here had prepared the team well for the first ODI of the five-match series against New Zealand at the nearby McLean Park on Sunday.
“I think preparations have been good. We were given very good facilities. The ground we were given opposite the stadium, we were given good pitches there. The practice wickets were almost like centre-wicket, so we had good practice. Net bowlers were also made available,” said Dhoni after a nets session.
The Indian captain said the team was well prepared in all the three aspects.
“So from the preparation point of view, it has been good. And we have looked into each and every aspect of not only batting and bowling, but fielding also, which will be very crucial. So most of the areas have been covered and we have had a few days to prepare,” he said.
Dhoni also stressed on the importance of making plenty of adjustments in the all the aspects of the game as strong breeze pose a bring challenge for the visitors.
“When you are batting, you have to pick a side (where) you are looking to play more shots. There is always a risk. If it stays as it is, there is quite a strong breeze. The straight boundaries are quite long so if you are hitting there against the wind then there are chances that you have got another extra ten yards. All that makes it quite crucial. So you have to be intelligent about it, which areas you want to pick.
“With the bowling, especially bowling against the wind, it is slightly more demanding. It is an obstruction and you tend to get tired slightly quicker. Fielding also, the outfields seem quite slow, the grounds are not big, so you need to judge where to stand so batsmen don’t steal doubles from you. All in all, reading conditions does help so you can adapt accordingly.”
Dhoni, however, feels that the strong wind and the pitch will only add to the strength of his fast bowlers.
“The wicket looks good, dry and hard, looks good for ODIs. Fast bowlers will get extra bounce. Intelligent bowlers may use the wind to their advantage, if you bowl in the right areas the ball may swing for a duration of time. Normally it stops after 10-15 overs, but here it may be prolonged a bit. Bowlers will have something from the wicket but once the batsmen get set they will love the pace and bounce,” he said.
Asked who would replace Yuvraj Singh at No.4, Dhoni refused to give any name and said few players will be tried out.
“We will see what suits us the best and then we will move ahead. As of now, after the Greg Chappell era, experimentation is something we have done away with. We don’t really experiment anymore. We will give chances to a few players and hopefully they will rise up to the occasion and accept the challenges they are pushed into,” he said.
Dhoni also said that the series will help the young players to get good exposure ahead of the 2015 World Cup, which will be co-hosted by both Australia and New Zealand. India will be playing two group games in Auckland and Hamilton, while New Zealand will also host a quarter-final and a semi-final.
“It will be good for the team because we will have players who have already played in those conditions and particularly at venues where you will be playing, so overall it will be a good tour for us,” he said.
Despite New Zealand being ranked eight in the ICC ODI rankings, World No.1 India won’t take them lightly, said Dhoni.
“The are a fantastic side. They have always been a side that is very contributive. They back each other. Fielding is something that is very important for them. They put a lot of emphasis on it and they have individuals who contribute in different ways – bat, ball – and they have got quite a few of them. So that really helps, in the shorter format especially. Whenever you see the big tournaments, they do very well, so they are a side that is very well respected. Fantastic individuals to play against,” he said.