Paul Lewis: Somewhere to park the bicycles

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Now that the Indian cricket tour is nearing the end, it's time to ask: Why have we been so nice to them?

In past tours here, India have never won a series. This year, it has looked a lordly procession never in doubt, well, not until the Black Caps' heroics of Napier anyway.

Talent, you might say. They have more of it.

You'd be right. Watching Sachin Tendulkar's magnificent 160 in the one-day series was a privilege; one of the best of its kind ever, anywhere.

It was no muscular or mindless slog but a master batsman at work, blending eye, hands, feet and body movement in a way that made even good bowling look inferior.

Jesse Ryder excellent, Sachin Tendulkar sublime.

If you go man-for-man through the two teams, there are few areas where the Black Caps match up.

So an Indian win would be the correct result, right?

Well, not necessarily. You see, there's this thing called a pitch. The home side prepares it.

If you have a team full of spinners, you can produce a dust bowl so your bowlers have an advantage. India do it all the time.

If you have medium-fast bowlers who can seam the ball, you prepare a green-top, where the grass allows movement - and even the Tendulkars of this world find that much harder going.

We've done it before. Successive Indian teams here have found unsympathetic pitches and New Zealand's battery of medium-fast bowlers snorting and pawing the ground, knowing the ball would fizz about and make batting uncomfortable.

That's why India hadn't won a series here - not because we were a better side. It was because people like Richard Hadlee (admittedly world-class), Richard Collinge, Danny Morrison, Daryl Tuffey and many more got some help from groundsmen.

Plus the Indians had to face New Zealand umpires.

Of course, some visiting teams cry foul but you'd think India wouldn't complain - over the years, they have produced spin-friendly tracks and home umpires when hosting teams.

In the days before they began to produce fast bowlers, they rolled the ball along the ground returning it to the bowler to scuff it up so the spinners could use it as quickly as possible.

Yet, for this tour of New Zealand, we have produced good batting tracks, like that billiard table in Napier.

Hmmm, now let me see. India, one of - if not the - best batting line-up in the world, New Zealand, not...

In our bowling attack, we had Kyle Mills who, introduced to the plundering of Indian batsmen not required to worry about what the ball might do, was reduced to a haunted man.

Mills, unquestionably one of our better bowlers in recent times, ran in to bowl like a man forced to run into the path of a bus while carrying his wife and kids.

He would have been a much more dangerous customer with a bit of help from the right pitch.

Such is the superiority of this Indian side, they might have won the series anyway.

Quite so - so why not produce some green-tops and have their batsmen wondering about things other than how many centuries they will score and whether it will be Goanese fish curry for lunch?

The answer, of course, is money. New Zealand Cricket, like every other cricket board in the world, is terrified of India because they are the new powerbrokers; the Keepers Of The Cash.

Their money has cascaded through the game like acid rain, eroding the old order.

Cricket boards and players alike have been seduced by the bounty.

If we'd offended them by producing a green-top and running through them like a prune and licorice vindaloo, well, India might not return and might use their power to squeeze New Zealand out of lucrative events and tours.

So, like everyone else, NZC has adopted a head-in-the-sand approach but have left their posterior sticking out so the Indians have somewhere to park their bicycles.

The International Cricket Council? Who are they? The Board of Control for Cricket in India - that's who runs world cricket. Note the word 'control'.

So far on this tour, New Zealand has kowtowed to the Indian request to play world-class batsmen like Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman into form by placing them with New Zealand provincial sides in return for the Indians playing an extra test here.

The controlling hand even attempted to reach into the commentary box and choke off Craig McMillan's nascent broadcasting career because - shock, horror - Macca was a 'rebel' Twenty20 cricketer who went to the ICL rather than the Indian-sanctioned IPL.

Shane Bond, who might have made a difference, can't play for New Zealand because he too is ICL. Gosh.

It's not just Kiwis. Test umpire Steve Bucknor retired this month after 128 tests but not before charging that India had succeeded in having him sacked re the infamous Harbhajan Singh "monkey" test in Perth because of their financial might.

It's also not just umpires.

Many players have chosen to truncate test careers to hoover up Indian lolly.

Herald on Sunday columnist Mark Richardson has been almost a lone voice wondering if New Zealand's lack of commitment to test matches is because it earns the players the least of the three forms of the game.

Jacob Oram bowled 25 overs in State Championship cricket but apparently wasn't fit enough for test cricket. How's that again?

It needs more than a frightened NZC to stand up, of course, but they remind me of that immortal line from Blackadder when World War I Blackadder is asked by his idiot subaltern George what to do if he steps on a mine.

"Normal practice, George, is to leap 200 feet in the air and scatter oneself over a wide area."

Obviously what NZC think would happen if they dared to stand up to India. Here's hoping for a nasty green one at the Basin Reserve.

- Herald on Sunday

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