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I have high respect for India batsmen: Jeff Crowe
- ‘Psychological disadvantage’ let visitors down, feels former NZ captain

Hamilton: Attributing India’s miserable batting performance in the first Test to inexperience on fast pitches and short duration of the tour, former New Zealand captain and current manager Jeff Crowe on Tuesday said the defeat has not lessened his respect for the Indian batsmen.

The Indians were shot out for 161 and 121 in the two innings in Wellington to crash to a 10-wicket defeat, but Crowe said he still had a lot of faith in the Indian batsmen, especially Rahul Dravid.

“We have high respect for them, more so for Rahul Dravid. You wouldn’t fault Sachin (Tendulkar) as a technician but I guess we have been used to him for so many years now that you sort of say it is expected. It’s bit like Tiger Woods hitting down the middle of a fairway,” said Crowe as India prepared to prevent a 2-0 washout in the second Test starting on Thursday.

“But to me it is Rahul. He must be in the top three or four now. His performance, ability to play technically correct as well as be an aggressive strokemaker makes him one of the finest players to watch in world cricket today,” he said.

Crowe, who played 39 Tests for New Zealand and scored 1601 runs at an average of 26.25, said despite their tremendous abilities, the Indians were perhaps unaccustomed to playing on a pitch like the one in Wellington.

“I think it is the old, historical adage about India touring away from home. I believe they are much better now that they have been for a few years when they were touring. But the wicket in Wellington was something they hadn’t probably seen for a while,” he said.

Crowe also offered a psychological explanation for India’s debacle, suggesting that the team can’t be too prepared for a short series. “This is a short, two-Test series. Then you have seven one-dayers. It (one-day series) probably is an important facet of this tour, going into the World Cup,” he said.

“So, psychologically, it is probably not possible to have yourself prepared for Test cricket.”

Seeing a wonderful chance for his side to make a 2-0 sweep, Crowe said the second Test was also a great opportunity for Sourav Ganguly to prove his leadership qualities.

“Sourav has done a great job. (but) now he has a job here for the next Test. When you are back to the wall, you got to come out and lead the guys,” he said. “The key for them is to get through the new ball. They need openers to get through that period for others to do the job.”

Though hopeful for a clean sweep in the Test series, Crowe looked satisfied with the fact that his team had ensured that it would not lose the series now.

“You can always argue an odd number series is better than a two-Test series for a chance for India to win it. It’s a bit like rugby matches and if you are the holder and win one, you can’t lose it,” he said.

Praise for Bond

Crowe was justifiably proud of what his bowlers achieved and said Shane Bond, if anything, is going to get better in coming years.

“Bond is a huge asset, a fiery fast bowler, for us. He’s got good pace, good rhythm, he’s pretty accurate and obviously he is going to get better and better. He is also well supported. Tuffey came in and bowled into the wind and got his rewards. He showed you can take wickets from both ends and this doesn’t always happen at Wellington,” Crowe said.

Crowe also praised John Wright for his role in India’s rise in recent months and said he was surprised when the batting folded up without fight in Wellington.

“Wright’s been superb for the Indian team. We know this Indian team has a lot more heart and soul. They are normally prepared to fight harder and it was a big surprise they didn’t actually do it. What (earlier) Indian teams, from what I have seen, has missed is a coach.”

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