India will respect Black Caps, says Dhoni
Indian captain MS Dhoni is adamant his side will be treating New Zealand with respect during their upcoming tour, despite their massive gulf in rankings in both one-day and test cricket.
India, who start their five-match one-day series against the Black Caps in Napier on Sunday, are ranked the world's number one 50-overs team, while New Zealand flounders in eighth. The Indians are, meanwhile, the second-highest-ranked test team in the world, after South Africa, with the Black Caps, again, eighth.
Speaking to journalists at Auckland airport yesterday, Dhoni praised the Black Caps, talking up the ability of "experienced players" like Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor to win games by themselves.
"They are a fantastic side, and they've got good bowlers in the side now," Dhoni said. "Their recent performances have been very good.
"I think they're a very good side – especially at home. They'll know the conditions better than us. Some of us who have not played [in New Zealand] – it will be a new challenge.
"So I would rather go into the series not taking the New Zealand team lightly – giving them the respect they should get.
"We all know the experienced players that are part of their side – they are dangerous enough to win the games on themselves.
"I think that's a big positive when you can't take your opposition lightly – and it pushes you to perform at your best."
For a number of the Indian touring team, this will be the first tour of New Zealand – and first time playing on the traditionally green decks the country offers.
Dhoni said getting his younger squad members used to the typically green wickets – and ground sizes – will be "good exposure" before next year's World Cup.
"It's a good exposure for them – the reason being the ground over here have a very different shape," he said.
"You get used to grounds that are oval or round – but here the dimensions of grounds are very different, which means – especially as a bowler – if you don't play over here, it is very hard to exactly pin point the fielding positions."
Most of Dhoni's responses to questions were relatively straight bat. He praised the power of international rookie Corey Anderson, defended his side's bowling options – which received a number of hidings against Australia and South Africa late last year – and labelled the shift into the post-Tendulkar era for Indian cricket as "very positive."
The only question that had him on the back foot surrounded the shortening of the New Zealand tour; a decision made last year by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) so India could play in next month's Asia Cup.
Dhoni said he had "no idea" why the tour shortened, labelling it an "administrative decision".
"There's no point thinking why there is no Twenty20s, and one test match less than last time we came over here," he said.
The Indian team flew directly to Napier from Auckland upon their arrival yesterday, where they will spend the week preparing for their game at McLean Park.