Thursday, March 5, 2009


India will rely on its high-octane batting to continue their winning ways as they go into the second cricket one-dayer against New Zealand here on Friday with injured pacer Ishant Sharma's fitness being the only concern.India's batting, which had come a cropper in the T20s, revved up into top gear with Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni serving notice with half-centuries in the first ODI at Napier.Yuvraj Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan have also been striking the ball well. Even if two of these celebrated batsmen last out the innings, the Kiwis would find the going extremely tough, despite playing in home conditions.The visitors are also dealing with fitness concerns to paceman Ishant, who is nursing a shoulder injury, but the team management chose to play the cards close to its chest,saying a final decision on the bowler's availability would be taken only before the toss.Though Ishant bowled his arm over in practice, the team management does not seem inclined to risk the lean and mean 20-year-old bowler. 

India would rather have him 100 per cent fit for the rest of the series."We will take a decision on him before the match. We did not let him bowl too much at the nets as it is part of our rehabilitation programme. But he is certainly improving," said team doctor Nitin Patel.Ishant's return would empower the Indian attack which had routed the flightless Kiwis at Napier. But if he doesn't, it would perhaps put Dhoni in a predicament.The Indian captain had hinted at a change in guard in the seam attack, obviously disturbed by Munaf Patel's insipid two-over spell at the McClean park. It wouldn't be a surprise if Dhoni replaces Munaf with either Irfan Pathan or left-arm tweaker Pragyan Ojha.New Zealand has its own injury concerns and they have already made it clear that wicketkeeper-batsman Brendon McCullum, who had injured his right hand thumb during the first ODI, would play as a specialist batsman.The home side has also drafted Peter McGlashan, whose sister Sarah plays for New Zealand's women team, as a specialist wicketkeeper in the 13-member squad.McGlashan's inclusion means Neil Broom would do the drinks man's job for the Kiwis in the 2nd ODI.Skipper Daniel Vettori realises that if India extend their lead on Wednesday, it would be a Herculean task for New Zealand to comeback into the five-match series."We need to draw even here. Else, it would become highly difficult for us to get back into the series," Vettori said.Realising it is a now or never situation, Vettori had a ten-minute team meeting before nets at the Basin Reserve this afternoon, calling on his bowlers to put the ball in the right areas."I am trying to find a balance of being tough on them (bowlers) and patting them. But they need to step up their form and ensure that they put the ball in the right areas. If India produce another a big total, it would bring pressure on our batters," said Vettori.
For the record, the teams have clashed in 77 one-dayers so far, with India winning 37 and losing 35. If the predicted showers don't disrupt the proceedings tomorrow, India should positively improve on their statistics.

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