Hyderabad: The narrow escape in the first Test was hardly the kind of start India wanted against a depleted New Zealand and the hosts would be determined to notch up a convincing win against their spirited rivals in the second cricket Test starting here on Friday.
Stung by criticism after a draw in the first Test, India would look to approach the second Test to be held at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium with hope and belief that they would live up to the reputation of being the top Test side.
This is going to be a landmark match for VVS Laxman, who will be playing his first Test in front of his home crowd, as the longer version of the game returns to the city after a gap of 22 years. It has been a long wait for the veteran of over 100 Tests, who has played against all Test nations and at almost every venue around the world during his 14-year-long career.
A sense of anticipation, that Sachin Tendulkar would get to his 50 Test hundreds in this match, also prevailed at the stadium a day ahead of the match. But the master, as is always the case, was his usual self -- calm and composed.
“He is preparing the same way. He is very calm and composed and there is no anxiety as far as Sachin is concerned,” said India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
After the twists and turns in the Ahmedabad match where Laxman and Harbhajan Singh’’s maiden Test century saved India the blushes, the hosts look determined to wrest the initiative from Daniel Vettori’’s side, and giving fillip to those thoughts was Dhoni. “They are a good side but we are well prepared, and the wicket also looks good, it looks a little on the flatter side and that should allow the batsmen to play their strokes freely,” Dhoni said.
The wicket, which has hosted three one-day internationals and quite a few Twenty20 and IPL matches since 2005, has a reputation for producing high-scoring matches. The last time it hosted an ODI, in November 2009, Tendulkar smashed a memorable 175 and nearly guided India to an improbable win against Ricky Ponting’’s Australia.
Another good news from the India camp is that there are no injury worries and the playing XI that was there in the first Test, is likely to be retained. There were few worries for India before the first match - mainly the form of Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid and the spin duo of Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha.
While Dravid broke the shackles with a ton in the first innings, Gambhir’s poor run continued and the opener would look to make the most of friendly batting conditions here.
Thanks to the flat wicket at Motera, the spinners could hardly get any assistance but things could be slightly different here.
The wicket has a bit of bounce that will not only allow the batsmen to play strokes freely but will also offer some assistance to the bowlers.
As far as conditions are concerned, they are slightly damp as it rained heavily over the past few days. There is a growing belief that the track might just provide some seam movement in the first couple of hours.
While the number one ranked Test side in the world started the series as firm favourites, the scenario changed after the way things panned out in the first Test.
New Zealand went into the Ahmedabad Test short of confidence after the 0-4 ODI hammering in Bangladesh but their fighting effort in the first match should give them the confidence needed to counter India on their own soil.
Injury to Hamish Bennett was a body blow for the Kiwis but his replacement, veteran all-rounder James Franklin, is no novice either.
The 30-year-old batted at number six and bowled first change during India’s last tour of New Zealand in 2009.
India were on the brink of defeat and had it not been for Harbhajan Singh’s maiden century and an equally brilliant innings from Laxman, the visitors would have scripted a historic win.
But this is a different match and a different venue and both teams are well aware of that.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Capt., wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V V S Laxman, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Amit Mishra and S Sreesanth.
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (Capt.), Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder, Martin Guptill, Gareth Hopkins (wk), Kane Williamson, Chris Martin, Tim Southee, Tim McIntosh, Jeetan Patel, Brent Arnel, Bradley John Watling, James Franklin, Andy McCay.
Match starts at 9.30 am.