HYDERABAD: India hope their youngsters will rise to the big occasion in the two-Test series against New Zealand that starts today to soften the blow of losing Rahul Dravid and Venkatsai Laxman.
Dravid quit Tests in March, while fellow prolific batsman Laxman retired on Saturday, leaving a gaping hole in the middle order.
“One of the ways to look at it is to look ahead for the future,” said Dhoni. “These two are great players and we will miss them on the field. But at the same time, it’s an opportunity for youngsters to take up the responsibility and we are hoping they will do well.”
The 24-year-old Cheteshwar Pujara, and Suresh Raina, who is a year older, are likely to replace Dravid and Laxman. The promising duo has a combined tally of just 18 Tests and both return to the Test squad after a year.
India will also feel the absence of Dravid and Laxman in the slips, where the pair held many superb catches.
“We are hoping we won’t miss them ... We have seen some of the youngsters and they catch really well. I don’t think we will be short of fielders in the slips.”
The Indian captain said his team were keen to start the new home season on a positive note after losing eight successive overseas Tests, four each in England and Australia, in the past 12 months.
“If you look at the positive side of it, there is only one way and that’s going up. We have not played a Test in the last six-seven months, so it’s important to get into the groove.”
New Zealand captain Ross Taylor said India would be tough to beat at home — with or without Dravid and Laxman.
“I won’t say it is going to be easy, but the confidence in the team goes up with India not having Rahul or Laxman, who are quality players,” said Taylor. “But that gives an opportunity to youngsters. Whoever India decide to go with, we will be attacking them.”
New Zealand are without key spinner Daniel Vettori due to an injury, but Taylor said his absence would give an opportunity to slow bowlers Tarun Nethula and Jeetan Patel to impress.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2012.