| Brendon McCullum during practice at the Chepauk on Wednesday, the eve of the first tri-series match. (Reuters)
Chennai: There is something strange about New Zealand. They are always the dark horse. They have to be so in the TVS Cup tri-series beginning at the Coromondal coast on Thursday as well. The presence of the reigning world champions and the runners-up means each New Zealand triumph will be treated as a surprise.
Despite emerging champions in the ICC KnockOut in Kenya in 2000, Stephen Fleming’s side has not succeeded in shedding that tag. Probably his team’s inconsistency, like the average run in the World Cup, and the frequent absence of key performers have stopped Fleming from leading a bunch of what experts would rate as heavyweights.
The New Zealand skipper, for once, is not liking this tag any longer. “It’s good in a way to start as underdogs, but we are not underdogs here,” he said on Wednesday. “We know we will face the world champions and the runners-up, but we have prepared keeping that in mind.”
Perhaps a commendable performance in the Test series is giving him this confidence. “Facing India in their own backyard is known to be the toughest of tours. It’s always a greater challenge. But we have done well against these teams in recent times.
“We forced Australia into a tight spot in the World Cup but couldn’t finish it off. We can do better here.”
Fleming, however, isn’t too happy with the touring schedule. “From Test matches to one-dayers, we have to make a lot of adjustments. We have got just two days to make the switch, which is not ideal. But we have to do it and do it fast,” said the skipper.
He felt Nathan Astle’s absence would reduce their strength to an extent. “He has always been excellent here. His technique helps him perform at a higher level in these conditions. He is disappointed and that tells you how much we will miss him.”
Rahul Dravid, on the eve of his fifth ODI as India captain, refused to enter the public debate over the condition of pitches. “It’s not my job to prepare wickets. I do what I can and that is to keep performing better. And we have to concentrate on what lies ahead of us. No point discussing what kind wickets we got in the past.”
Dravid dismissed suggestions of gaining or losing psychological advantage from what has happened in the Test series.
He refused to accept his team was under any kind of pressure. “The only pressure is to do well. Nothing more,” he ruled.
“But it will be a tough series and give us a chance to test ourselves against two tough teams. It will be a great challenge against both Australia and New Zealand,” Dravid said.