Napier (New Zealand): India is determined to break its 16-year winless streak in overseas Test series as it warms up for the forthcoming duel with New Zealand with a three-day match against Central Districts on Friday.
A shadow Test 11, including all its stars, has been named for Friday's match although left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan will be rested to recover from the bruised knee he suffered in the Max game in Christchurch on Wednesday night. Coach John Wright and captain Saurav Ganguly are adamant the past hurdles of seaming pitches, cold weather and foreign cuisine and culture are all history for the current side. India hasn't won a Test in New Zealand in four tours since the 1975-76 season and its record outside the sub-continent is poor, not having won a Test series since 1986. The prospect of green, bowler-friendly early season pitches stands to benefit New Zealand more than the tourists, but Wright said it wasn't a big issue for his star- studded batting line-up. "The best feature about our tour of England this year is we batted well at Headingley and Nottingham which were green wickets," Wright, a New Zealander, said. "Any top sides you play, they go well on any wicket. We don't mind because the biggest challenge for us has always been to take 20 wickets. We know we bat pretty well." India's middle order of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly and V V S Laxman is hugely formidable. Tendulkar, refreshed by a month's break to recover from a hamstring injury, showed his magic in the Max game with a quickfire 72. An upbeat Ganguly said previous touring sides to New Zealand had been in rebuilding phases, but the class of 2002 was ominously nearing its peak. "Winning overseas is a habit, we've won five Tests this year overseas. We're better prepared now than we used to be before, and we've got a better seam attack," he said. In Zaheer's absence, paceman Tinu Yohannan will join another left-armer Ashish Nehra, backed up by Ajit Agarkar and spin whiz Harbhajan Singh. Parthiv Patel, 17, will keep wicket. Wright said touring wasn't a big issue for his side, which was always welcomed by the overseas Indian contingent and well-served with familiar food. "It's fantastic, one of the features of being an outsider, the interest and general affection that we get wherever we go from the Indian community." A match against Central Districts started India's last tour four years ago when the tourists lost by seven wickets at McLean Park despite a blazing 154 from Tendulkar. Batsman Mathew Sinclair and all-rounder Jacob Oram are both only outside chances to sneak into the New Zealand Test 12 to be named on Monday, but coach Mark Greatbatch said any good performances here shouldn't be ignored by the national selectors. India: Saurav Ganguly (captain), Sanjay Bangar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V V S Laxman, Parthiv Patel, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Tinu Yohannan and Murali Karthik. Central Districts: Jacob Oram (captain), Craig Spearman, Peter Ingram, Mathew Sinclair, Glen Sulzberger, Jamie How, Bevan Griggs, Martyn Sigley, Michael Mason, Andrew Schwass, Lance Hamilton and Brent Hefford.
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