There are two major nightmares, literally, when teams play in New Zealand and the West Indies. The time zones for India, while otherwise favourable for most other cricket playing countries, takes its toll on viewers when it is played in the two extremes of the cricket globe.
A rather confident Indian team take on hosts New Zealand tomorrow in the first of three Test matches. However, Hamilton refuses to be benevolent on its Indian viewers. Contrary to the request put forth by Sony, that is broadcasting the matches here in India, the match is scheduled to take place at 03.30am IST, which means most Indian cricket lovers will still be fast asleep in bed when India play New Zealand in the wee hours of the morning.
But that is not likely to deter either team from putting up a show. The New Zealand team, if coach Andy Moles can be relied upon, is excited about the prospect of the tinge of grass on the surface of the pitch. Having seen what the Indians were subjected to in the last ODI, the New Zealand wants to fancy their chances. But they do have a few hurdles.
While Praveen Kumar returns to India, team India is expected to field Laxmipathy Balaji and if that happens, it will be a remarkable comeback for the Tamil Nadu fast medium bowlers who won the hearts of the people of Pakistan in what seems like so many eons ago. With Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma expected to lead the attack with Munaf Patel in the mix, India will be looking to reap nothing short of the best, notwithstanding their past disastrous tour where nothing seemed right from the very beginning.
New Zealand have recently shown that the effects of the dwindling results in that Chris Martin, who played for New Zealand almost as far back as Balaji did, has become inadvertently the centre of controversy. While it is believed that selectors such as Glen Turner and Dion Nash had lost faith in the fast bowler, captain Daniel Vettori as did Moles believed that Martin could make an impact on the Indians. While all have come out to say that there was no one party favouring him over the other, his recall itself raises questions about the depth of the New Zealand line up.
Another man who has not featured in New Zealand’s game plan in recent months has been James Franklin. However, with the injury to all rounder Jacob Oram, New Zealand are perhaps looking at replacing all rounder for all rounder, which means that New Zealand have potentially two comeback men on their trail. They would like to believe their team is self sufficient, but should India survive the prospect of bounce on the pitch, they may have another run fest to contend with on the cards with India expecting a full strength that involves Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir opening and Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman leading their majestic weight in the middle only for Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni to round it up. It is a tall prospect and on a batsman friendly pitch, Vettori will have his work cut out.
New Zealand will want to start as favourites on home turf and based on past record. But if there is one thing to learn from Australia’s current tour to South Africa, it is this – that records can turn on their heads and champions can be reduced to tears, on both sides of the series.