India to take on NZ in final warm-up match
Chennai: Indian team will be looking to keep up the momentum they gained during their morale-boosting win over defending champions Australia, despite the middle-order batting woes, when they take on New Zealand in their second and final warm-up match of the World Cup here on Wednesday.
The match would provide India, who defeated Australia by 38 runs in their first practice match in Bangalore on Sunday, a last chance to assess the fitness of players and combination before the mega-event, commencing on February 19 in Dhaka where India will take on Bangladesh in the inaugural tie.
On the other hand, New Zealand, who have had a poor run in the recent past, did a world of good to their own morale when they overcame a fighting Ireland by 32 runs in their high-scoring warm-up tie in Nagpur, thanks to a solid 130 by Martin Guptill.
Looking to put behind their dismal performance of losing 14 of their last 17 ODIs, the Kiwis would be banking on the experience and expertise of their new coach John Wright in the sub-continent conditions, to keep alive their hopes of making it to the knock-out stage.
Meanwhile, India would be looking to make full use of the home conditions to put up a better show here than Bangalore.
On the match eve of the final warm-up match today, Dhoni rued the lack of partnership in the previous game and asked his teammates to show more intensity on the field.
"I think we needed a partnership in the middle, which didn`t really happen for us. That was one of the reasons we were not able to score big. We need to pick up a bit of intensity on the field. We will be progressing into the World Cup games this being the last warm up match," said Dhoni ahead of the team`s net session at the M A Chidambaram Stadium today morning.
Speaking about the Kiwis, Dhoni said, "They are a competitive side and are expected to come up with collective batting and bowling performances. They are very talented side and good at fielding too."
However, there are no major worries for the Indian team against the Kiwis since they know the latter`s weaknesses, having beaten them squarely in the series at home late last year.
Moreover, the return of Sachin Tendulkar, who is certain to play tomorrow`s tie, would also boost India.
It will also give the iconic batsman a chance to assess himself ahead of the sporting extravaganza.
"Sachin will be playing tomorrow but we will preserve Zaheer (Khan) for the tournament. There are no worries about Zaheer`s mild groin injury as he is fit for play (the World Cup)," Dhoni said.
As for the wicket, which was termed as under-prepared by captains of both South Africa and Zimbabwe after their warm-up match here on Saturday last, Dhoni said, "the wicket on which we are to play tomorrow is damp now and I cannot say as to how it will behave."
Going into the tomorrow`s game and then into the mega-tournament, a major worry for Dhoni would be the collapse of the Indian middle-order against the Aussies.
Upon winning the toss, India could manage to score only 214 but spinners, led by Piyush Chawla came to the team`s rescue by bundling out Ricky Ponting`s men for 176.
So, tomorrow`s match against the Kiwis would be of much significance for India as it would provide them with an opportunity to evaluate the middle-order against the strong attack of Scott Styris and Jacob Oram and spinners Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum.
The trio of Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, who failed to capitalise on good starts during the ODI series in South Africa, wasted the opportunity in the warm-up tie as well against Australia, must fire tomorrow to take the pressure off bowlers.
As far as India`s bowling is concerned, it would be a chance for the pacers in Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra and S Sreesanth to impress the selectors for a place in the final eleven during the World Cup.
With already so much talk about the vital role to be played by the spinners, the trio of Harbhajan Singh, Chawla and local boy R Ashwin would be focussing on making the most of the conditions and the slow wicket, even though the groundsmen have indicated that the pitch for tomorrow`s game will not be the one used for South Africa-Zimbabwe warm up tie last week.
Both South African skipper Graeme Smith and Zimbabwe`s Elton Chigumbura said the wicket was dead and expected pitches for World Cup to be prepared better.
Meanwhile, the Kiwis, who are yet to reach their peak particularly in terms of confidence levels, would be looking come up with good show in the batting department.
Batting would revolve around Brendon McCullum, Guptill, Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor and James Franklin with Scott Styris coming in at No 6.
As Styris, Taylor and McCullum said in their open media session, the team is looking to gain from the batting expertise of Wright, who joined the team as coach about a month ago.
"Wright is always relaxed and focused. I think the batsmen have benefited a lot from him. He has given them the clarity and focus," Styris said.
Kiwi bowlers will have their task cut out to check the mighty Indian batting line up. The four-wicket haul by Vettori against Ireland saved his side from some early embarrassment and he would be a key man to watch out for, especially since he is set to step down as skipper after the World Cup.
New Zealand players had their net session yesterday where they focussed on tackling spin and would have another session today.