India’s cricket history will tell us that we win at home, especially on tracks that assist spin at some stage or the other, with spinners doing the bulk of the bowling. That has been the code. Visitors come and go, none the wiser, muddled in mind and broken in spirit.So 13 home Tests in a sea son are like freebies from telecoms. You chalk up numbers and they don’t hurt your pocket. It’s an examination where you not only set the paper but give numbers to yourself too.
New Zealand, understandably, will put their slow men in front. Quite likely all three of them -Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and Mark Craig. They need to be economical at all times, for that alone allows men to crowd the batsmen and play on their patience. A session of broken shackles and you are left clutching at straws. When scores are low, every penny must count.
New Zealand have one factor in their favour. They bat deep. They are also stout of heart. Every man will do his best and that’s a legacy which precedes even Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming.In theory , that means they will take the spinners on. The very least it does is make the captain spread the field.
Interestingly , Kanpur could allow them to ease into their mission. For one, it won’t be a vicious turner in the initial days. The monsoon has lingered on, the season has begun early and it might not be as dry.It could be a game of patience.
Thus, Virat Kohli’s men can’t be overtly aggressive.New Zealand have fine pacemen who will exploit early morning conditions. When you bat sometimes with five specialist batsmen, you want the full house in attendance.Openers could be critical and India, with KL Rahul’s rise, should benefit.
Home batsmen also have a reputation against spin to mend. Footwork, patience and soft hands are keys against spin. In today’s slam-bang era, such virtues are easily forgotten. Rotating the strike is far more important than relying on fours and sixes. The first innings matters -that is another golden rule.
In 2008, curator Shiv Kumar allegedly took the blame when the International Cricket Council (ICC) not only accused the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association (UPCA) of laying an under-prepared wicket, but also threatened to impose a blanket ban on the Green Park after South Africa’s loss in the third Test within three days.
He, however, refused to name those responsible for the 2008 pitch fiasco, but claimed amid the talk of a spinning track for the first Test, the Green Park pitch this time would have equal opportunities for both the sides at least for the first two days of the historical 500th Test.
“Home advantage is what one likes to avail in a Test. India have quality spinners, but it doesn’t mean I should create a pitch where the ball starts turning from Day One,” said Shiv Kumar.
“We have strict guidelines from the ICC and BCCI on pitch planning and I am not going to risk the future of this ground with a rank turner.”
India coach Anil Kumble too accepted that home advantage made a difference. While he would love to see India start the season on a winning note, he hasn’t advised the curator about the pitch. “We have quality spinners and we wish to win here as it’s a historical Test match for us. I know the Green Park wicket’s nature, it’s slow and low bouncy.”
Though Kumble refused to comment on Harbhajan’s call against using rank turners in the series, he defended the use of three spinners. “That’s our strength and we would like to make use of it for winning. There is nothing wrong if we plan our strategy according to the situation.
“The Kiwis too have quality spinners and others bowlers too. We shouldn’t take them lightly and a win here will boost our confidence. We had a good time in West Indies in the last series, and we would like to continue our winning streak here too. The surface doesn’t make a difference to us,” he said.
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