Napier (New Zealand): India goes into the second One-day International against New Zealand on Sunday hoping to overcome its form and fitness problems.
Master batsman Sachin Tendulkar was yet to recover completely from an ankle injury sustained before Thursday's day-night opening game at Auckland, forcing India to shuffle its batting order. The tourists lost the low-scoring match by three wickets to trail 0-1 in the seven- match series. "He will have another fitness test tomorrow morning," skipper Saurav Ganguly said of Tendulkar, who did not bat with his teammates in the nets on Saturday. Tendulkar, the leading run-getter in the world with 11,544 in 300 matches with a record 33 centuries, has not played a One-dayer since the Champions Trophy final against Sri Lanka at Colombo in September. His absence forced India to try out a new opening combination in Shiv Das and Virender Sehwag at Auckland, with regular opener Ganguly batting in the middle order. The skipper did not rule out a different pair in the second game at the McLean Park here, saying a fit-again Sanjay Bangar could open with Sehwag if Tendulkar failed the fitness test. Bangar (knee) was one of the three key players to miss the opening match due to an injury, others being off spinner Harbhajan Singh and Tendulkar. Harbhajan, suffering from a hand injury, has also been declared fit. Tendulkar's fitness added to India's batting woes as none of its players has so far looked in his best form against the New Zealand pace attack in low-scoring matches on seamer-friendly pitches. India's worst came at Auckland when it was shot out for 108 to record its lowest total against New Zealand in 62 One-dayers. "The pitches made more news in Tests and the last One-dayer. Fast bowlers of both the sides bowled well as they got a lot of help from the surfaces," said Ganguly, whose team also lost the two-Test series 0-2. Ganguly said the pitch looked good for batting and he was looking forward to an improved performance from his batsmen so as to square the series. "They (batsmen) are all professionals and know what is expected of them at this stage. It is a matter of winning just one game and I am sure the victory will turn things around for us," Ganguly said. New Zealand, however, was keen to extend its impressive run against the tourists ahead of the World Cup starting in South Africa next February. This is the last One- day series for both India and New Zealand before the World Cup. "We have to keep the momentum going for a long time as the World Cup squad is very much on the selectors' mind. Consistency is what we are looking for," New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said. Like his Indian counterpart, Fleming also expected a better show from his batsmen despite winning the Test series and the opening One-dayer. Only opener Mark Richardson could score a half-century in two Tests and none in the last game. The hosts are likely to rest strike bowler Shane Bond and include seamer Paul Hitchcock. Teams (from): New Zealand: Stephen Fleming (captain), Nathan Astle, Mathew Sinclair, Craig McMillan, Lou Vincent, Brendon McCullum, Jacob Oram, Kyle Mills, Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey, Shane Bond and Paul Hitchcock. India: Saurav Ganguly (captain), Virender Sehwag, Sanjay Bangar, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V V S Laxman, Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Javagal Srinath, Parthiv Patel and Rakesh Patel.
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