Cricket: Hesson key to history in India

By Kris Shannon

Mike Hesson. Photo / 	Sandra Mu
Mike Hesson. Photo / Sandra Mu

New Zealand's cricketers are about to undertake a mission they have never accomplished, but Chris Martin thinks a new commander could create history in India.

Fresh off a 2-0 test series loss in the Caribbean, in which a woefully-underdone side sent off departing coach John Wright with a whimper, the task could hardly be more difficult for his replacement Mike Hesson.

The Black Caps head into tomorrow's first test in Hyderabad with records - both recent and historic - against them. The last time New Zealand won a test in India was in 1988 and, in nine attempts, the tourists have never left the country with series success.

That, of course, is asking a lot of a side sitting near the foot of the test rankings and whose last series victory over a major test playing nation came in 2006.

The local media certainly think so, speculating over how many ranking points India will earn with a 2-0 win and calling the Kiwis' visit an "appetiser" for the main course of series against England and Australia later in the year.

But Martin, who has played under his fair share of national coaches since making his debut in 2000, believes Hesson may be the man for the job.

"He's a very common sense, passionate coach who's put a lot of thought into preparation," Martin said.

"He's possibly got his dream job, which is an inspiring thing to have around the side whenever you're touring."

The former Otago mentor was hailed for his organisational and attention-to-detail approach when he was introduced as Wright's successor, and that will certainly be put to the test in the next two weeks.

Though he's had limited time with his new charges, Hesson would have spent little time in the last month thinking about anything but India.

And that is perhaps one area which was lacking against the West Indies. Possessing a complex relationship with his superiors, culminating in a fruitless attempt to arrange much-needed warm-up matches before the tour, it's easy to wonder whether Wright was at his passionate best in the waning moments of his tenure.

"A lot of things in the West Indies didn't really pan out - I can't really put my finger on that kind of thing," Martin said.

"I think this is as good a place as any to start, under a fresh management group, and [with] a lot more planning and preparation we can get back in the fight and show how good we are."

They will need to against an Indian side which, despite the retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, still boasts a wealth of batting.

While their potential replacements have domestic credentials, Martin thought the absence of the senior pair could engender a mental edge for the Black Caps.

"Any time the experience goes from the side you feel, not more comfortable, but you feel like you've got the ability to put pressure on a guy in the test environment.

"When you lose people in your changing room like that, and you're looking around the place trying to figure out where your bulk of runs are coming and you don't have a Laxman or a Dravid, I'm sure it can play on your mind a little."

The slightest bit of doubt in the opposition will go a long way to ensuring New Zealand enact what they believe is a winning game plan - dismiss the hosts for a par score and match them with the bat.

Easier said than done, maybe, but the Black Caps managed to do just that twice in their last visit to India in 2010. Those matches ended in draws but if New Zealand can go one better this time, Hesson would have had a lot to do with it.

- APNZ

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