Wellington: Senior Indian batsman Rahul Dravid said on Tuesday the team's image had been steadily improving in international cricket, especially after overseas Test victories in recent years.
"We're now quite competitive away from home," said the vice-captain ahead of the opening Test against New Zealand, starting at Basin Reserve here on Thursday. "We've won quite a few Tests abroad in recent times and that has raised the team's confidence and changed its image," said Dravid, nicknamed 'The Wall' for his consistently solid batting. The middle-order batsman has so far scored 5,483 runs in 67 Tests with 14 centuries. India is yet to clinch an away Test series outside the sub-continent since 1986, but has won Tests in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and England under Ssurav Ganguly's captaincy in the last two years. Dravid said he was confident the team would be able to extend its impressive run on the current tour of New Zealand, despite having to play in different conditions. "The conditions are similar to those in England in lot of ways and we've done well in England. The confidence is quite high," said Dravid, 29. India won the NatWest One-day series in England and then drew 1-1 in a four-Test series against Nasser Hussain's team. Dravid said he felt batting would hold the key to India's fortunes in the two-Test series. "We'll have to bat well in these conditions in order to sustain hopes of winning the series. We'll have to give enough runs to our bowlers to get the opposition out twice," he said. "It's a different challenge playing here and our batsmen will have to apply themselves well on fast pitches. We've to be wise in our shot-selection and tighten up our technique." Dravid said he did not believe he would be the key man in a strong batting line-up despite his brilliant form this year. "I don't think I'm the only key batsman in the squad," Dravid, who slammed five centuries this year including four in successive Test innings, said. "We've a good batting line-up and every batsman has been in good touch this year. To win a Test series, it's necessary for the entire team to do well," he explained. He was the most successful batsman on India's last tour of New Zealand in 1998-99, hitting a century in each innings of the third and last Test at Hamilton. "I really enjoyed my trip here last time. I enjoy batting in these conditions and I hope to be among runs again. It has been a good year for me, but it will be fantastic if we win the Test series here," he stated. Dravid said India would have to be at its best to beat New Zealand at home. "They are a very good side. It won't be easy beating them as they play really well at home. We'll have to be more consistent in our batting and bowling," he added.
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