The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘We have the most attractive batting line-up in the world’

Hamilton: Even as a former New Zealand captain strongly defended the Indian batting, another, serving, laid down a challenge for the “much-vaunted” Indian batsmen to prove their mettle in hostile conditions.

The New Zealander praising the Indian batting was coach John Wright, who said on Wednesday that his team’s batting line-up was still the “most attractive” in the world though it was facing problems of adaptability in the seamer-friendly conditions of New Zealand.

In a confidence-boosting backing ahead of the second Test starting on Thursday, Wright said he had full faith in the abilities of his batsmen, who are facing a lot of flak after their dismal performance in the Wellington Test, and they knew best how to cope with the situation here.

“We play an attacking brand of cricket. It would be unrealistic to expect our players to change overnight,” Wright said.

“We have some of the most exciting strokemakers in the world. Definitely, in my opinion, the most attractive batting line-up in the world.”

Meanwhile, the Black Caps’ captain Stephen Fleming has challenged India’s batsmen to live up to their much-vaunted reputation in the second Test.

“We hear a lot of talk about India’s batting and how they are the best players in the world,” Fleming said on Wednesday. “But, if you can’t play on all surfaces, then you are not the best players in the world.

“They can be great players, but to adapt to different surfaces would make them even greater. When we go to India, we have to adjust to slower, turning wickets and that’s just as big a challenge — more so in some instances — than playing on a good, bouncy wicket.”

Wright said it was difficult to bat on the fast and bouncy tracks in New Zealand, especially after playing on the flat wickets in the sub-continent.

“It is very challenging. At home, we played on some of the flattest wickets. And then you come to Wellington. But then you have to adapt,” he said.

He, however, left it to the players to decide on their strategies, saying they understood their job fully.

“It is very fair for you to give the message to players what you want them to achieve. It is pretty dangerous when you start telling them how to do it,” he said. “I think it would be a pointless exercise if I asked Sehwag, Laxman or Sourav to concentrate totally on defence. It is not their nature and it is not the way they play their cricket,” Wright said.

“But they need to adapt. I feel there are a lot of New Zealand fans who want to see these players bat,” said the former New Zealand captain.

However, as Fleming threw the gauntlet to the Indians, his opposite number put up a brave face saying it was not the first time his team was faced with such a situation.

“We have lost before. We were 1-0 down in England. Similar was the case in Sri Lanka (both times India drew level). And against Australia we came from one Test down to win the series. It can happen again,” Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly said echoing the general mood in the camp, which is obviously stunned by the Wellington defeat in but has not lost faith in its abilities.

Echoing his coach, Sourav too said it was not the track but the lack of application by his batsmen that had let the team down. “It did a bit but was not unplayable. I don’t think it was one of the most difficult wickets. We should have batted better. I don’t think the wicket was responsible for our poor batting display,” he said, seeking to end the discussion over pitch conditions. “Let’s not worry about the wicket. If it is green, it is green. We still have to play Test cricket on it and would see how it goes,” he said.

Sourav, who has already ruled out any major changes in his batting line-up said, “There is no panic in the batting yet but they can’t sit on the past and it’s time they did well. These guys have put you in winning position in the past. They put the team in a hole in this Test and it is up to them to pull us one in the next game.”

The Indian cause received a boost when both Sanjay Bangar and all-rounder Ajit Agarkar, who had injured themselves during the first Test, were declared fit and participated in Wednesday’s practice session which was held indoors due to incessant rains.

In fact, it has been raining constantly in Hamilton in the last few days and it is doubtful whether any cricket would be possible on the opening day on Thursday.

Though Sourav admitted the team’s preparations had suffered due to the rains, he stressed the need to go into the match with a positive frame of mind.

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