Former captain Ajit Wadekar, the batting star of the 1967-68 series when India beat NZ 3-1, says MS Dhoni's batsmen may return to form in Tests, but is not sure whether they have the fire-power to bowl Kiwis out twice
Not in their worst nightmare would the Indian team have thought they would get walloped 0-4 by New Zealand in the five-match ODI series. But, that's how things unfolded for MS Dhoni & Co and it goes without saying that the visitors are under tremendous pressure to put things back on track in the two-Test series which begins in Auckland tomorrow.
India found themselves in almost a similar situation in December when they were thoroughly outplayed by South Africa in the ODI series, but fought back in the two Tests, and although they lost the series 0-1, they still managed to return with their reputation intact.
Fans will be hoping for a similar fight-back if not a comprehensive win over the Kiwis, once the Tests get underway, but former India captain and coach Ajit Wadekar is wondering if the team possesses the skills to put things right at such short notice. "The batsmen are capable of fighting back after the loss in the one-dayers, but I am not sure about our bowling," Wadekar told MiD DAY.
"It's going to be very difficult since the morale will be low. But let's hope they show some fight," added the 72-year-old who scored 328 runs in India's 3-1 away win over the Kiwis in 1967-68. "I feel India's progress in the two matches will depend greatly on the performance of the openers. Shikhar (Dhawan) has been struggling for runs so if I had a choice, I would try out Ajinkya (Rahane) in his place."
Fast bowler Ishant Sharma's (centre) inconsistency has cost India dear, both in South Africa and New Zealand. Pic/Getty Images
Wadekar, who batted at the number three position, is full of praise for Cheteshwar Pujara who occupies the same spot and believes he could be the one to look out for in the series. "There is not much that I can say about Pujara. He is perfect for that position. He has shown tremendous hunger for runs and that's why I think he has been so successful in his short career. I feel he has the perfect temperament to counter the New Zealand pace bowlers, so let's see how he performs."
The memory of the legendary Anil Kumble walking out to bowl in the 2002 Antigua Test with a bandaged face (which was a result of a broken jaw) is still fresh in minds of Indian fans.
But a similar incident took place in the 1967-68 India-New Zealand series when Ramakant Desai batted with a fractured jaw in the company of left-arm spinner Bishan Singh Bedi and put on 57 runs for the 10th wicket which helped India to a nine-run first innings lead, and eventually led to a win in the opening Test at Dunedin.
Wadekar recalled this incident saying: "Ramakant was a very brave player and the way he and Bedi batted was commendable. He showed great spirit by opting to bat with that injury and I feel all of us were motivated with the courage he showed." India won the series 3-1.