OPINION: We've seen the ramble that has been the West Indies come and go - now the Black Caps have got their big summer task ahead of them: a one-day series against the world's best at that format, India.
This series will be a real test for New Zealand, and the Black Caps won't be able to get away with par performance to get results.
For one, India's batting order won't fall over like the Windies did. From one to seven, they've got quality batsmen.
Guys like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni will hurt you, whether it's pace or spin you bowl to them.
Young India batsmen are a lot better than they used to be at facing pace. They've grown up playing on better surfaces, facing the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Dale Steyn in the IPL - so they are far better equipped to play good, quick, short-pitched seam bowling. Their ability to play spin is undoubted, so it will be a real mountain for the New Zealand bowlers to climb.
The decks in New Zealand will hold no concerns for the Indians. Look at Napier - a hard, fast quick surface that doesn't go sideways; same with Hamilton and Auckland - plenty of runs in both those wickets. They will love them.
Their side is full of shot-makers. Gone are the days when you could send India to a green-tinge deck and they'd be worried. They are more than comfortable playing on any surface.
Kiwi fans should keep an eye on a couple of new guys in the India lineup. Stuart Binny is a genuine all-rounder - a powerful hitter, who bowls some sneaky medium pace that could play well on the Kiwi pitches. He has warranted his selection with great performances in the Indian domestic scene and in the IPL.
Varun Aaron is a quick for the Delhi Daredevils and should catch the eye. He has been having injury worries on and off for the past two years. A bit like Umesh Yadev, he's got genuine pace - and is a guy they've got an eye on to the future for seam bowling.
India in the past decade have struggled to find genuine quicks - but they've got actually got a good group of seamers now.
As far as the Black Caps go, there are a couple of questions for the top order. Martin Guptill's innings in Nelson against the West Indies would have done him a lot of good, because he was coming back into the team and still finding his place.
It was a gritty knock, and showed the way forward for him as an opener. He's got to make sure that Jesse Ryder doesn't have to swing all the time and create all the strike-rate - he needs to help him out.
The running between the wickets up the order needs to improve too. Gone are the days when the Indians had a few draught horses in the field; these guys are a super-slick fielding unit. There aren't too many places where you can hit the ball and pick up the easy ones as you could in the past.
The continued development of Kane Williamson at first drop is key. He does best on a well-paced wicket, and struggled in Hamilton last week. Look for him to make a statement in Napier.
Going down the order, Luke Ronchi really has to show us something in this series. He has promised a lot and they've backed him - but we haven't seen much from him as a New Zealand international yet.
Remember, the test keeper, BJ Watling, is still out there and is more than capable in the one-day format.
I'll be interested to see what the Black Caps do with their bowling attack. I believe Adam Milne deserves a good opportunity. He got only two overs in Queenstown against the Windies - and is worth a shot early in the series against India. We need to see whether he has the ability to foot it at this level.
It's going to be a hell of a hard task to win this series. India are extremely good. We've just walked away from a series with a really bad Windies team with a 2-2 result and one shocking performance. If that bad result recurs in the next two weeks, we'll be staring down the barrell. I think a 3-2 result, win or lose, will be a good series tally, all told.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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