Auckland: On paper, and off it too, Zimbabwe seem to be no match for defending champions India in today’s inconsequential Group B World Cup match at Eden Park here.
However, Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co will do well to recall the evening of May 19, 1999 at Grace Road, Leicester, where the Africans stunned Mohammed Azharuddin’s Indians by three runs in a World Cup group match.
Add to this, the fact that India could be tempted to test some of its bench strength from among Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ambati Rayudu, Axar Patel and Stuart Binny, and the ground conditions at Eden Park being quite tricky, and we could have an exciting game on our hands.
India skipper MS Dhoni (left) watches Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowl in the nets during a training session in Auckland yesterday. Pic/AFP
Former New Zealand
captain Lee Germon explained why. “The Eden Park has changed quote a bit from when I played there in the 1990s. There’s a drop-in pitch now (since 2002). But the most important change many teams face is the small size of the ground and its unique diamond-like shape which can often confuse visiting captains,” Germon (46), the chief of Canterbury Cricket in Christchurch, told mid-day yesterday.
The visitors have to change their bowling strategy here, felt Germon. “The straight boundary at Eden Park is the smallest in New Zealand, while the square boundaries are quite large. So, while on a normal ground, bowlers will look to bowl fuller to attract straight shots and then cover that area, here bowlers have to mix it up a bit.
“They must ensure that they make the batsmen play square of the wicket as much as possible, especially in the powerplay overs and death overs. Captains must also be equally sharp in their angled field placings because if a ball beats a fielder, it’s a sure shot boundary,” explained Germon, who led from the front scoring 89 in the Black Caps 1996 World Cup quarter-final against Australia in Chennai.
'Dhoni is a legend'
Germon, however, felt that the Indian team have the experience to deal with testing conditions. “Dhoni is a legend for all that he has achieved in the last few years. He is a smart captain and more importantly he has an experienced bunch of players at his disposal. The batting was always Indians strength, but now their bowling is delivering too.
“The drop-in pitch at Eden will help India because it will offer conditions similar to Australian wickets, where India have done well at this World Cup. There will be pace, bounce and turn, and no swing,” said Germon, who went on to rate his compatriots as favourites to win the tournament alongside defending champs India.
Germon is a World Cup achiever
Lee Germon was one of New Zealand’s finest cricket captains despite a short stint at the helm. He was made captain in 1995, at a time when NZ cricket was disintegrating and it was decided to infuse new blood.
His very first tour as captain was to India and he impressed as his team went down narrowly 2-3 in a six-match series with one match being abandoned. He returned to India a year later for the World Cup and led his team to the quarter-finals where they lost to finalists Australia in Chennai. In November 1996, he led NZ to their first Test victory in Pakistan in 26 years. Thankfully, for NZ, after Germon, they got another fine leader in Stephen Fleming.