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Astle, Bond still not certain for India tour

New Delhi: Fast bowler Shane Bond and batting mainstay Nathan Astle are still some way from gaining complete fitness for New Zealand’s tour of India in two months time.

Bond, who has been out of cricket since suffering a stress fracture in his back during a triangular series in Sri Lanka in May, is “progressing nicely” but will take some time before resuming bowling, said New Zealand Cricket’s (NZC) sports science medical co-ordinator Warren Frost. “He’s still on the comeback trail and is building up his work in the gym,” Frost told a website.

Although Astle has resumed his build-up to full fitness, his training will be stepped up this week, he said.

With no timeframe set for the duo’s return, stand-in coach Ashley Ross said in case they fail to undertake the tour, players with international experience will be accommodated in the team.

However, Ross felt his side was fully ready to face the challenges in the sub-continent. Ross, who is likely to be in charge in the absence of coach John Bracewell during the tour, said all the players are in peak form which can help the side achieve what they have not done in their previous seven attempts — winning a Test series in India.

“This side has played extremely well away from home in recent years. We won in Sri Lanka, we won our first series last year in the West Indies and when we toured England in 1999 we won that series and the bulk of players from those teams are still together. We have a very good record in Asia recently,” Ross told a website.

“We have been working very hard on playing spin by approaching a more methodical way for each bowler.

“There has been a real move forward among our batsmen. Stephen Fleming, Mark Richardson, Scott Styris and Jacob Oram had good scores in Sri Lanka with the batting coming of age, and our spinners too showed out,” he said.

Bracewell may not be on the tour, but his inputs will be there as Ross expects to be in close consultation with his senior before the side leaves on September 23.He added the team was preparing in right earnest for the upcoming challenge.

There is a prospect that New Zealand could prepare for its tour by travelling to India earlier than intended, or by stopping in Northern Australia before coming to India.

Currently the team is undergoing training at NZC’s high performance centre where conditions are similar to that of India and which had proved very effective in coping with foreign conditions. “It is a tough and difficult environment in India and our training will be reflective of that,” Ross said.

New Zealand will play two Tests and a triangular series, also involving world champions Australia, during the tour. Despite doubts surrounding Kanpur hosting one of the Tests, Ross said the choice of venue hardly bothered his players.

“When they bowl the first ball of the series, whether it is in Mohali, Kanpur, Nagpur or Ahmedabad, we will be ready.”

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