Cricket: India rate NZ star players

By David Leggat

Dhoni says the more experienced Kiwis are dangerous enough to win games on their own.

India cricket captain MS Dhoni leads a side with great batting depth and more than useful bowlers. Photo / Sarah Ivey
India cricket captain MS Dhoni leads a side with great batting depth and more than useful bowlers. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The Adam Milne question didn't take long, and when it arrived, India's captain, MS Dhoni, had the perfect riposte.

Dhoni was asked upon the Indian squad's arrival in Auckland yesterday what he knew of New Zealand's young speedster who twice clicked over 150km/h on the speed radar against the West Indies at the weekend and has excited plenty of chatter and prophesying since then.

He didn't exactly quake in his shoes.

"In South Africa [on their overseas tour] we faced quite a few bowlers bowling quick," Dhoni said with a small smile.

India are in New Zealand for five ODIs and two tests, but no T20s, after the schedule was reduced, including one test being lopped off.

Dhoni trod a diplomatic line on the issue yesterday.

"I haven't a clue," he said to the no-T20s question, relevant for the proximity of the world T20 in Bangladesh, due to start in mid-March.

"I'm someone who lives in the present. I always think about the stuff that's in my control. It's more of an administrative decision, so there's no point thinking why T20 is not there, why there's one test less than last time we came here."

Dhoni, rated among the best finishers in the short forms of cricket, has led India in all three forms of the game since April 2008. He averages 52.88 from his 238 ODIs.

On his watch, India rose to be the world's top-ranked test nation (they're second behind South Africa at present), won the inaugural world T20 in his first captaincy assignment, and won the World Cup on home soil in 2011.

The recently retired Sachin Tendulkar may have been India's most beloved cricketer; Dhoni might just be the most respected, and certainly the man with the heaviest workload, physical and mental.

He also leads the Chennai Super Kings, winners of two Indian Premier League titles.

Now there's no Tendulkar, nor the great names of the past few years such as Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virendar Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Harbhajan Singh.

But India have batting depth in spades and more than useful bowlers. It is a period of transition - only Dhoni and seamers Ishant Sharma and veteran Zaheer Khan remain from India's last test in New Zealand at Wellington in 2009 - but Dhoni believes it has been handled well.

"Looking at how the guys are shaping up gives me a very positive vibe," he said.

"That shifting over has happened very well. Overall I'm happy with how the batting unit has performed."

The likes of Cheteshwar Pujara (averaging 66 from 17 tests), Virat Kohli (17 ODI hundreds at 25 and averaging 51.54), and Rohit Sharma (two tons in his first six test innings and averaging 66) fill Dhoni with optimism.

The bowlers have had off days and question marks remain over their depth, but Dhoni isn't concerned.

Their fast-medium bowlers are skilled swingers of the ball and in Ravi Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin there are demanding spinners.

Having given New Zealand, the tourist mecca, a big rap, Dhoni then gave New Zealand, the cricket team, an equally resounding thumbs up.

"They are a fantastic side, they've got good bowlers and recent performances have been really good. And especially at home, they'll know the conditions better than us.

"For some of us who have not played here it will be a new challenge and we're not taking New Zealand lightly. We've give them the respect they should get."

Dhoni knows the more experienced New Zealand players "are dangerous enough to win games by themselves". He rates that "a big positive when you can't take the opposition lightly, that pushes you to perform at your best".

India have five days to prepare for the tour in Napier.

- NZ Herald

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