by Shreyas Bhide
The Australia – NZ test series is about to start and this sure sums up for a delcious serving. Fresh from their shocking and humiliating 0-2 defeat against Indian in India, the Kangaroos will be breathing fire and seeking revenge. The Kiwis, not to be written off, on their parts also have already started spewing venom. Fair amount of words have been exchanged from both sides, even as the first test match is yet to get underway.
The Kiwi team of late (except the Bangladesh tour) has struggled to score in the 300 runs-territory. Skipper Daniel Vettori surely must have told his inexperienced batsmen they must make at least 300 in their first innings if they are to put any pressure on the hosts. The problems though don’t end for New Zealand then and there. The injuries to Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum are worrisome and New Zealand are confident both Brendon McCullum (back and foot) and batsman Jesse Ryder (virus) will recover in time to take their places in the Black Caps’ side. They called up Peter Fulton and Gareth Hopkins as cover in case the duo failed fitness tests and were deemed unavailable for the Gabba, but both should play. To add to their woes, they have already opened their account in Australia with a loss against New South Wales at the SCG. Although Jamie How hit 170 in New Zealand’s first innings, he was given no support as Grant Lambert picked up five for 74. New South Wales captain Dominic Thornely then top scored 85 as Phil Hughes, Moises Henriques, and Steven Smith also hit half-centuries to put the home side in control. Daniel Vettori (73), Daniel Flynn (55) and Brendon McCullum (54) were in the runs in the second innings but they were not able to set New South Wales a challenging enough target, Henriques taking five for 51. As reported earlier, McCullum was off the field for part of day two and three with a sore back, with Aaron Redmond taking over the gloves. Having named five pace bowlers in their squad, New Zealand seem to be banking on pace to give them the vital early break throughs. Skipper Daniel Vettori is the only spin option New Zealand have in their armoury. Injury to Jacob oram has already ruled out his participation in the complete test series.
For Australia though, Andrew Symonds seems to be the buzzword. Reams of publications have been done with his exploits over the past two months. Andrew Symonds return to the Aussie test squad will be a big variable on this match and Roy could wind up with either a very poor performance thanks to lack of fitness and lack of match practice, or he could wind up turning in a career-defining performance that could signify his return to the world stage. Symonds was sent home from Australia’s One Day International series against Bangladesh in late August and was then not picked for Australia’s unsuccessful Test tour of India. Although his return may mean temporary curtains for either Jason Krejza or Shane Watson, Ponting said Australia was ready to make a tough choice. “A tough decision had to be made there, obviously with Symonds, when he was deemed to be fit and ready to go, I thought it was important that we got him back into our team. Being a senior member of our team and being someone who was a very successful member of our team before he went out of it, it almost becomes like an injury-type replacement”, Ponting was quoted as saying.
For the spectators on the in the stadia, it would be a complete entertainment package. Australia is known to come hard at its opposition, at times even verbally abuse them. The Black caps though are in no mood to be mere walk overs. Kiwi captain Daniel Vettori has said that Ponting is always up and ready for a fight and is one of the most fierce on-field characters in world cricket. The spectators who would like to catch the action in their morning newspapers though are in for a disappointment. The three leading global news agencies – Reuters, Associated Press and AFP – have suspended coverage of Cricket Australia matches and events because of a dispute over accreditation terms. The agencies will not provide any coverage of Australia’s matches, training sessions or commercial events in text, pictures or TV, due to their opposition to the terms set by the Australian governing body. The agencies are opposed to Cricket Australia’s policy of imposing limits on the number of updates allowed on the net for text, pictures and data and further rules such as limiting distribution to websites not owned or attached to newspapers or sports magazines. The first casualty of this boycott seems to be the New Zealand Australia test series down under.