No one is more excited to return to McLean Park than Black Caps batting maestro Ross Taylor when they host India in the one-day series opener tomorrow afternoon.
The milestones of making his ODI debut and carving up his maiden century in the format here aside, Taylor will relish having most of his family members in the stands for the limited-overs match starting from 3pm at a venue that hasn't hosted an international since February 2017 due to poor drainage curtailing the match after some rain against Australia.
"Mum and the family will come over but dad's a little gutted because he's having a hernia operation," said the grinning 34-year-old whose father Neil and mother Anne often come from Wairarapa to watch him play.
"He tried to ring up the surgeon when he found out we were coming to Napier to ask if he could have it [the surgery date] moved but he couldn't so ... ," said the Central Districts Stags cricketer of his father, who would have to settle for text messages on the game.
Taylor said India would raise the bar as the world No 2 side despite a good hit out against Sri Lanka.
"It's good to head out to Napier," he said. "It's been a while. It's a home ground for the Stags and there have been a few dramas but it looks like the ground and venue are in good nick."
McLean Park has undergone a major revamp with the surface looking pristine although plans to introduce a drop-in wicket for internationals have been deferred until after November this year.
Taylor said batsmen were eager to return but, perhaps, not so bowlers who, traditionally, had found the bounce-and-carry wicket had offered them little purchase.
However, world-class curator and head groundsman Phil Stoyanoff has prepared blocks with a greenish tinge, favouring seamers whose team win the toss and elect to bowl first.
"If you bend your back on this wicket, I think, there's always a little bit of grass ... there's a little bit for the bowlers as well," he said, adding he had watched the CD Stags-Canterbury Kings here in their Burger King Super Smash T20 match on Saturday night.
However, sun strike was an issue around 7pm in the Stags' 18-run victory with play halted for about 20 minutes.
"There's nothing we can really do, to be honest, and it's not the first time it has happened," said CD chief executive Pete de Wet, alluding to the Bangladesh T20 here two years ago but revealing cloud cover would work in their favour.
De Wet said the 3pm start might negate any delays because the sun strike would fall during the end of the first-innings dinner break.
Putting a structurally sound shade, such as planting hoardings on the stadium roof, would have to be tested against the westerly yesterday.
"Yes, it's a tricky one but there's not much we can do about it, unfortunately," he said.
Taylor said while the exchange rate on totals tended to be bullish here, teams had to earn the right to post a 300-plus return although it was possible to fall shy of that mark and still win games.
He felt keeping wickets intact in the middle order against Sri Lanka provided the Black Caps a fulcrum to hoist themselves to competitive totals.
The balance of the India side — for argument's sake, opting for two tweakers including Ajay Jadeja — will determine how the Kiwi batsmen would approach the game.
While the tourists had rested speed merchant Jasprit Bumrah after the historic test and ODI series win on Australian soil this month he expected there was enough talent and depth in the India mix to test their resolve.
"Any time India come, the power houses, the New Zealand Indian community comes out to support them because there are just as many Indians in the crowd as Kiwis and in some situations more," he said, emphasising the India fans often backed the Black Caps when non-India rivals toured here.
Taylor felt New Zealand coach Gary Stead and national selectors would use the India tour as a yardstick to nut out a possible 15-strong squad for the ODI World Cup in England from May to July.
He agreed India were far from the mix of yesteryear that banked on the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni to bat them out of trouble before countering with a docile bowling attack.
"You saw in their test series [in Australia] how their depth, in their pace bowling especially, has come through to go on to win the series in Australia against a very good side."
Taylor said while India batsmen did their job it was the seamers who showed their prowess and would relish the bounce they didn't enjoy in India.
No doubt, focusing on the potential damage India captain Virat Kohli could inflict if he ran amok with his willow would detract from the Black Caps' blueprint.
"Kohli is a sensational player and probably the best one-day player going around so it's easy to get caught up with him but you have two pretty good openers up there in [Rohit] Sharma and [Shikar Dhawan] even before Kohli gets in so I'm sure the fast bowlers will have their work cut out."
Veteran wicketkeeper Dhoni had heaped misery on Australia last week.
Taylor said the 4-0 victory the Kiwis had against India in their last tour here didn't do justice to the closeness of the battle.
"I guess, from the fans point of view, to come and see Kohli in the flesh will be pretty exciting as well."
Taylor said there was no secret to his prowess. He simply rocked up to fulfil his portfolio, banking on myriad shots, especially when spinners rolled up their sleeves.