| SOURAV: Azhar’s record beckons
Wellington: Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly on Monday dismissed any notion his side could be intimidated by fiery New Zealand pacer Shane Bond in the forthcoming Test series, and said his batsmen are well equipped to tackle any attack.
“We haven’t played him but he looks a good prospect for New Zealand. However, we have batsmen who have scored against all oppositions in all conditions,” the Indian captain said ahead of the first of the two-Test series starting on a lively Basin Reserve pitch here on Thursday.
Sourav didn’t need to overly stress the class of the lynchpins of his batting line-up — Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and himself. Between them they have 56 Test hundreds and over 20,000 runs. However, the captain made it a point to mention the emergence of openers Sanjay Bangar and Virender Sehwag as batsmen of true class.
“Both Bangar and Sehwag have Test centuries to their names and both have played some quality innings,” said Sourav as his team practised at Westpac Stadium, some 15 km away from the venue.
The visitors were quick to avail the indoor facilities at the Westpac, venue of the fifth one-day International later this summer, as Basin Reserve is still recovering from the heavy rains of the weekend.
Bond has to his credit the fastest delivery in Tests — 153.1 kmph —bowled against Pakistan earlier this year.
Bond, a policeman, has taken world cricket by surprise emerging from nowhere to be the Man of the Series in the tri-series in Australia at the start of the year. He then twice picked up five-wicket hauls against the West Indies.
Sourav was also unperturbed about reports that the Basin Reserve wicket is likely to be a green top and will favour the New Zealand pace battery.
“We expect to get such wickets while touring — it’s nothing new. But it is the same for both teams,” he said.
The Indian captain said his team did well in England recently where the conditions were not different from what they expected to encounter in the current series. “We played in England in conditions which were seam bowler friendly but gave a good account of ourselves,” said Sourav about the series his side drew 1-1.
He said his team must do well in the first Test to win the series as it was very difficult to make a comeback in a short series.
“Tests are more important than one-day Internationals and it is crucial we do well in the first game itself as there is no time to recover in a short series.”
Sourav has only two Tests on the present tour to have another crack at his long-standing ambition to win a Test series abroad — a feat which would surely bring him on par with Mohammed Azharuddin’s record of 14 Test wins, if not take him past the former India captain.
“We have been close to winning a series abroad, we have had our moments but we just haven’t been able to pull it off,” said Sourav.
He refused to believe his side was underprepared for the first Test as they had only one warm-up game and little practice since they arrived in New Zealand a week ago.
“I am satisfied with whatever we have managed. We have played lot of cricket in recent times so we are not short of practice. In the three-day game (against Central Districts) the batsmen batted well and bowlers, especially Ajit Agarkar, looked good. We couldn’t get the tail out but it is no cause for worry. Still I feel the bowlers should have taken those wickets,” said Sourav.
He said Ashish Nehra had a head start over Tinu Yohannan going into the first Test. “Nehra bowled well even though Tinu had good spells in patches.”