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India tour of New Zealand 2014: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan eye turnaround after tough South African sojourn

Rohit Sharma (left) and Shikhar Dhawan © PTI
Rohit Sharma (left) and Shikhar Dhawan would aim for a fresh start after a disappointing tour of South Africa © PTI

Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan had a tough time in South Africa. The openers of the Indian batting line-up now have an opportunity to turn things around in New Zealand. Nishad Pai Vaidya has more…

The year 2013 was a phenomenal ride for Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. Following two years of uncertainty over the opening combination, India finally found a pair that fit the bill and delivered consistently. They are youthful, fearless and match-winners in their own right — a blend India desperately searched for after the ICC World Cup 2011. That Rohit was the second highest run-scorer of the year and Dhawan smashed five tons stands testimony to their efforts and consistency. However, the duo couldn’t end the year on a high as the South African pace battery tested them on bouncy surfaces in the Rainbow Nation. As the tour of New Zealand beckons, Rohit and Dhawan must be  eyeing a turnaround.

Although the tour to South Africa was a tough sojourn for both the openers, they may be in a much better position to do well in New Zealand. The conditions there are very different when compared to South Africa. While the seamers may find help with some movement, the degree of the bounce wouldn’t be the same. They can measure the conditions and plan their approach accordingly, tuning their game according to the movement.

Patience would be the key for someone like a Rohit, who usually takes his time in the middle to grit it out, see off the first few overs and then plan the assault. This approach complements Dhawan perfectly as he is the go-to-man upfront. Any ball in his zone will be smashed to the boundary. It is that combination that has worked very well for India through the year. When they came together in England for the ICC Champions Trophy 2013, it hit the ground running perfectly. While Rohit would contend with the swing and stay at the wicket, Dhawan would attack.

Thus, their experience in England may actually hold them in good stead for this tour as they may have a better sense of the conditions..  They arrived a week ahead of the first game, which would allow them to adjust to the conditions with numerous practice sessions. In South Africa, this pair was caught off-guard as India arrived a couple of days before the first game and didn’t have any tour match.

Also, Dhawan and Rohit will have to contend with a young bowling attack that is growing in confidence. New Zealand may not have the big names, but have enough guile and strength. There is a Mitchell McClenaghan, who has picked a bagful of wickets in 2013. Adam Milne is the new pace sensation and would add to this attack with pace. It may be unsettling for the batsmen, but potentially a good contest. Then there is Tim Southee and Trent Boult, bowlers who would swing it around and have shown great promise. So, on a man to man basis, New Zealand have a good attack and should have a good battle with the young and fearless Indian openers.

From the long term perspective, this is a very important tour considering the ICC World Cup 2015. India are quite fortunate that they are playing in New Zealand a year ahead of the tournament and would be in Australia leading up to the big event. This gives India an ideal opportunity to zero in on their side, which seems to be a settled unit as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni pointed out. Dhawan and Rohit form the nucleus of that line-up as they are the ones who set the tone. They may have had a tough tour in South Africa, but considering their performances in England and the West Indies last year, where conditions weren’t the easiest, they do have the goods to do well.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

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