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India tougher challenge than Australia: Fleming

Chennai: New Zealand’s cricket team arrived in India on Monday determined to excel on a tour captain Stephen Fleming described as tougher than playing against world champions Australia. The 14-man New Zealand squad will play two Tests and a triangular one-day series also featuring Australia during the seven-week tour.

Fleming, on his fourth visit to India, said playing top-level cricket in this country was a bigger challenge than taking on Australia. “India is one of the most fascinating places in the cricket world,” said the astute 30-year-old.

“A tour of Australia is just an extension of living and playing in New Zealand. India offered different demands. The toughest challenge is culturally and physically. There are a lot of adjustments you have to make and the quicker you adapt the better you do,” Fleming observed.

“I have found tours of India very enjoyable, but mentally very demanding. Coping with the fan pressure is part of it. They are very passionate about their team and they want to see it do well.”

New Zealand’s Test squad is without Shane Bond, who is recovering from an injury, and allrounder Chris Cairns, whose wife is expecting the couple’s second child. Cairns will join the team for the one-day series, but the Black Caps have been bolstered by the return of Craig McMillan and Nathan Astle.

Downplaying the “revenge” series against India, Fleming said there will not be any confrontation between the two teams when they meet in a two-Test series beginning on October 8.

“It is not a confrontation series between the teams but a non-confrontation series. But we are also realistic about the tough competition ahead,” he said.

Fleming, who arrived here along with the 14-member Test squad, praised his Indian counterpart Sourav Ganguly for his leadership skills.

“I respect Sourav Ganguly as a captain, leader and a good player. It is not a revenge series and there will not be any confrontation between the captains and the players,” Fleming said at a press conference before leaving for Vishakapatnam for the three-day tour opener against the Board President’s XI from September 26 to 28.

Fleming said: “We had positive and extensive preparation on skills specified for Indian conditions and the wickets. We have had extensive preparation with four days in Auckland, eight days in Brisbane and another six days of proper cricket on this tour before we play the first Test,” Fleming said.

“We are used to playing on grass and we certainly anticipate turning wickets in India but it is going to be interesting to see which side is going to perform”.

Coach Ashley Ross said: “I am sure the youngsters in the team will come good from their Indian experience,” he said.

The squad

Stephen Fleming (capt), Nathan Astle, Ian Butler, Robbie Hart, Richard Jones, Michael Mason, Craig McMillan, Jacob Oram, Mark Richardson, Scott Styris, Daryl Tuffey, Daniel Vettori, Lou Vincent, Paul Wiseman.

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