The port city of Napier in New Zealand plays home to nearly 60,000 people from different ethnic backgrounds. It is a major tourist attraction as it boasts of the statue of the Pania of the Reef
, a 1.5 meter tall bronze statue of a mermaid that follows from a local legend. The layout of Napier also draws architectural enthusiasts from all over the world, a positive fallout being that the city enjoys the privilege of being the first cultural site in New Zealand to be nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
A quick overview of Napier, as highlighted above, is important because of its significance on this Indian tour of New Zealand. It was the scene of India's first triumph on the current tour after back to back defeats in the T:20 games at Christchurch and Wellington. Now, more importantly, it may serve to be the venue for India's second ever test series win in New Zealand in forty one years.
After the insipid performance put in by the Kiwis at Hamilton, it would be difficult to imagine them putting any kind of real pressure on the Indians immediately. Chris Martin and Iain O' Brien bowled well, but it is not the kind of pairing that would give the opposition sleepless nights. New Zealand's fielding also left a lot to be desired and if they don't convert half chances that come their way, the likes of Tendulkar getting away with big scores is a near certainty.
The ideal thing for New Zealand would be to win the toss and bat first and post a minimum score of 350 runs. Even with their inexperienced batting lineup, this is possible should Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder and Brendon Mc Cullum decide to stick it out at the crease and sacrifice flamboyance for frugality. Ryder is capable of that, as was on show in the first innings at Hamilton, and with Vettori almost certain to play a handy role at number eight a total of 350 runs would put some pressure on the Indians upfront when they come out to bat.
The other thing Vettori would do well to make amends for, is to avoid bowling his seam bowlers in short spells. On the third morning at Hamilton when Yuvraj was bowled when he misjudged an incoming delivery from Chris Martin, the removal of Martin and O' Brien from the attack, after each of them had completed a six over spell was baffling. Removing your best bowling combination when the team needs quick wickets is not the best way to contain the first inning deficit.
Should rain not play spoilsport, as it threatened to do in the first ODI, India is in with every chance to round off a historic series victory. Every member of the side contributed in the win in the first test. India's worst enemy as they head into this test could be their over confidence. Bowl first or bat, they will have to dig in with the same intensity that was on display at Hamilton. In the batting department Yuvraj Singh would do wonders to his self confidence should he post a big score in this part of the world, while on the bowling front Harbhajan need not wait for the second innings to come round the wicket so as to improve his wicket taking chances. Munaf also needs to keep up the pressure as the third seamer so that the efforts of the previous test are not dismissed as a one off occurrence.
Indeed, a win for Dhoni at Napier would once again underline his stature as the man with the Midas touch.