Kolkata: Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly on Monday conceded that New Zealand had the ability to throw a challenge to India during the coming Test and tri-series, but expressed confidence about India finishing on top in the home fixture due to its superior spin strength. ''They can challenge India on our soil. They played well in Sri Lanka recently.
But there they had to contend with only (Mutthiah) Muralitharan. Here they have to face the might of Harbhajan (Singh) and (Anil) Kumble,''Ganguly told newspersons in Kolkata. New Zealand are scheduled to play two Tests against India at Ahmedabad (Oct 8-12) and Mohali (Oct 16-20), before participating in a tri-series with Australia as the third team. ''They won't find the going as easy as in Sri Lanka. Every touring captain has said, and I agree, that India is the biggest hurdle in the sub-continent,''he said.
The dashing southpaw also pointed out that India had been playing very good cricket in the last couple of years and had a fantastic record on home soil. ''I am very hopeful of the outcome in both the Test and the triangular contest. We have a very good side,''Ganguly said. Turning to the tour to Australia beginning towards the end of this year, Ganguly said ''We need to bat well Down Under to come out successful''.
However, he claimed that the Indians had now started playing well overseas and referred to the side's performance in South Africa and England. ''No other Indian side had played as well abroad in the last 10 years as we did in South Africa and England,'' he said. Ganguly, however, said more than talent, his players needed to believe in their abilities to come out triumph in Australia. ''Rather than expecting to do well, we must do well.
But I'm sure that we will put up a better performance in Australia than the earlier sides,'' he said. Ganguly claimed that India now had a better fast bowling attack than the earlier teams, provided all the quickies in his team were fully fit. On the just-concluded Challenger Trophy series, Ganguly said it afforded good opportunity for his boys to get a feel of the pitch after a long lay-off.
He also hailed the batting performance of Sridharan Sriram, Rohan Gavaskar, Hemang Badani and Yuvraj Singh. Among the first bowlers, Ganguly picked up A Salvi and L Balaji for special mention. ''Salvi looks very good, while Balaji seems a good prospect. Balaji did not do well in the West Indies last year, but then all the bowlers had got the stick there. But now his fitness level has become very high,'' he said.