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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dravid, Laxman could have toured ahead: Vengsarkar

Players picked only for the forthcoming Test series in New Zealand would have benefited with a tour of that country with an India 'A' squad at the end of Ranji Trophy final in the middle of last month, feels former captain and chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar.

"I feel if an India 'A' team's tour of New Zealand had been organised soon after the end of Ranji final and the squad included Test stalwarts Rahul (Dravid) and (VVS) Laxman,
besides M Vijay, Dhawal Kulkarni and L Balaji, they would have got used to the conditions better for the Test series in the absence of any practice games," Vengsarkar said on Saturday.

The Indian team, which has already reached New Zealand to commence their tour with a Twenty20 International at Christchurch on February 25, would plunge into the Test series starting at Hamilton, four days after the conclusion of the five-match ODI rubber on March 14 at Auckland.

Vengsarkar felt that while the players who are already in New Zealand would get used to the vastly different conditions there by playing in the Twenty20 and ODI series, those picked only for the Test series would not have this benefit with no practice games scheduled before the three-Test rubber.

"A little bit of planning and insight would have benefited them after the long layoff from cricket. Also the fringe players would have been helped by their presence in the India 'A' squad," Vengsarkar said, adding he had always insisted in the India 'A' team going to a country which was subsequently hosting the national outfit.

India have not won a Test rubber in New Zealand since their maiden visit in 1967-68 when Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi's team won 3-1. Only one other Test, at Auckland in January 1976 which was also Vengsarkar's debut match, has been won by India since
then.

Also, while Dravid had an outstanding tour in 1998-99 when he notched up hundreds in each innings (190 and 103 not out) at Hamilton, he did not enjoy the same success on India's last visit to New Zealand in 2002-03.

The champion batsman accumulated only 131 runs with 76 as his highest in four innings in matches played at Wellington and Hamilton, the same venues he had played on his visit four years earlier.

Laxman had a dismal outing on the same tour six years ago and came a cropper on drop-in pitches where the ball darted around extravagantly. The stylist Hyderabadi mustered only 27 runs for a poor average of just under seven.

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