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Batting holds the key: Dravid

Wellington: Vice-captain Rahul Dravid thinks India’s chances of registering an overseas series win would largely depend on the batsmen who would have to perform to potential to beat New Zealand in the two-match Test series starting Thursday.

“Batting will be the key. If we can bat well and put ourselves in a position like we did in Headingley, our bowlers can take 20 wickets in these conditions,” said the middle-order batsman Tuesday after practice at Basin Reserve, the venue for the first Test.

India won the Headingley Test this summer in England with substantial contributions from the batsmen. The top three — Sachin Tendulkar, captain Sourav Ganguly and Dravid — slammed centuries as the visitors posted over 600 runs before the bowlers got into the act to snatch a memorable innings win.

India have failed to win a series outside the sub-continent since 1986 and Dravid said the bowlers would be looking forward to take full advantage of the seaming conditions.

“Sometimes we struggle to take 20 wickets on a flat deck but when it seams around, we back ourselves to take 20 wickets,” the Mr Dependable of Indian cricket said.

“We are better equipped to win matches abroad. We have won five Tests abroad in the last 18 months. It is an area of our game we have tried to work upon.”

Fast bowlers are likely to dominate the first Test on a pitch which is difficult to distinguish from the thick grass around the park.

“It is all a matter of shot selection, a question of tightening up your technique. It is basically a state of mind — what to play and what to avoid.

“But the guys did well in England where conditions are similar. We have to do like what we did at Trent Bridge and Headingley, though it might seam a bit more here initially.”

Dravid said the Indian team is keen to do well on this tour as it would be a fitting tribute to coach John Wright, the former New Zealand captain.

“We want to do well. We would really like to do so. John has been good for us. If we could win a series here, it would be good for him and millions of supporters of Indian cricket back home.”

Dravid, who has scored 1226 runs at 64.53 with five centuries including four on a trot this year, was modest when asked whether he was the key to India’s hopes.

“I don’t think so. We have got a good batting line-up. Everyone has been in good touch this year. I don’t think I am the key. If we really have to win this series, a lot of guys need to contribute. It is never really a one-man show.”

Dravid had an outstanding tour of New Zealand in 1998-99, scoring 321 runs in two Tests at 107 with centuries in both innings of the drawn final game at Hamilton.

Dravid said he wanted to end the year on a high. “It’s been a good year so far and it would be nice to finish it off well. If we can win the series it would be fantastic.

About the New Zealand pace trio, Dravid said he is yet to face any of them. “The only bowler I have faced is Daniel Vettori. But in these conditions, all of them would be a handful.

“Shane Bond would be interesting. I think he has bowled well of the little bit we have seen of him. It would be a good challenge. Having said that, we back ourselves and our bowlers to do well in these conditions.”

Contract issue

Dravid is hopeful the contract issue would soon be resolved. “I am sure the ICC and the BCCI will sort it out. I am sure the matter would be resolved.

Dravid, however, said he wants to concentrate more on cricket. “I have not given it much thought leading up to this Test. This is a very important tour. We want to concentrate and don’t want distractions.”

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