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‘NZ tour will help prepare for Cup’

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Mumbai: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni feels that the upcoming tour of New Zealand will be an ideal exposure trip for his young brigade, as they prepare to defend the World Cup, to be held in just over a year’s time in the Trans-Tasman nations.

“As far as experience is concerned, yes the next World Cup will be in Australia and New Zealand, so most of the players will get the feel of the wickets. When I first went to New Zealand, the fielding position was very confusing. The shape of the grounds are very unusual,” Dhoni said, during his team’s pre-departure press conference.

“We had to keep fine leg very deep and from a wicket-keeping angle, it looked like it was square leg. So it takes time to adjust. Overall, it would be a good exposure,” Dhoni said at the pre-departure conference here on Saturday.

He predicted an exciting series in New Zealand and said that some of the matches could be high scoring, especially with the new ICC rules.

“The grounds in New Zealand are different. In most places, there are drop-in pitches. It has been seen that the matches can be high scoring, especially with the new rule changes. When we went last time, we had played according to the old rules.

“And, according to the new rules, probably some of the matches could be high scoring. But it will depend on what kind of wicket we are playing on. If it is a flat wicket on a small ground, and if there is a good partnership… then in that scenario there could be lot of high scoring matches,” Dhoni added.

“In their team, they have lot of interesting talents. There are many new players who are doing well and it is also their home condition. So I think overall, it looks exciting. It looks like an exciting series. Let’s hope for the best,” he said.

The Indian captain said the last series in South Africa yielded a lot of positives for the team, without elaborating.

Following the twin series loss in South Africa, he refuted the general suggestion that India are lions at home and lambs abroad.

“We lost the last series in South Africa. Before that in the England and Australia series, we didn’t perform that well. Apart from that, wherever we have gone, we have done well. We did well in the West Indies, New Zealand and South Africa. This is a tagline that gets stuck to us... but for us, we like to do well as a team,” he said.

He defended the team’s performance in South Africa. “In fact, if you look at the South Africa series, we played well in the Test series. We lost the second Test (in Durban) because of the two to two-and-half-hours where we played badly. We were at the receiving end.”

The Indian skipper also pointed out that when teams from outside the subcontinent lose matches here, they don’t get labelled.

He stressed on the importance of valuing home conditions and said that it is important to take advantage of it.

“World over, what we have seen is it is important to hold fort at home, and at the same time trying to do well outside as well. You will have to start valuing your heritage. When teams from outside the sub-continent lose, they don’t start making turning tracks,” he said.

Dhoni also said that the team needs tail-enders to contribute. He said they should at least be able to bide time at the crease, if not really score runs.

“If you see how cricket is moving, your 8,9,10 and 11 have to contribute, because if they don’t spend enough time in the middle, you also end up wasting one batsman — maybe a No. 7 or No. 6 batsman — so that is one area we have to do slightly better.

“Even if they are not scoring runs, if they can hang around for some time, the batsman at the other end can score. We saw Ajinkya (Rahane) play in the last innings (in South Africa), something like that. If that is not the case, it becomes difficult for the batsman at the other end,” he said. He added such an approach will add about 30-50 valuable runs to the team total.

Asked if some of the players should have played the Ranji Trophy quarter-finals, as suggested by Rahul Dravid and Venkatesh Prasad, Dhoni said that it was a good decision to not allow the players to play in the domestic tournaments as they needed a break before the overseas tour.

“If the team leaves together then it is good. We got a 10-day break after the South Africa tour. It is important to be mentally fresh. It was a good decision to give them off time,” he said.