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It's impossible to miss the eclectic mix of accents when you are within earshot of the New Zealand cricket team's practice sessions these days. While most sound distinctly Kiwi, the slightly milder tones of South African English too resound intermittently from the Black Caps camp. And the banter in Afrikaans between wicket-keeper Kruger van Wyk and left-arm pacer Neil Wagner — both of whom till six years ago dreamed of playing for their original homeland, South Africa — more often than not has the entire outfit in splits. There is also a mix of the characteristic Australian twang whenever bowling coach Damien Wright has a piece of advice for his wards.
On Wednesday at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal, there was even a dash of Telugu thrown in as leg-spinner Tarun Nethula reminisced with his junior coach John Manoj near the practice nets.
According to skipper Ross Taylor, this is the new era of New Zealand cricket, under a new coach, 37-year-old Mike Hesson, and armed with a motley crew made up of youngsters and a bunch of settlers from foreign climes now wearing the silver fern on their jersey with pride. Taylor & Co, however, have the arduous task of dragging their team back up from the nether regions of the Test rankings. And India must just seem like the perfect destination to commence their resurrection.
It is here after all that generations of Black Caps have displayed their innate feistiness and ability to punch above their weights. Eight draws in 10 Tests over the last two decades, with a couple of dominant performances, just reveal one part of the story.
Over the years, it's difficult to find a starker study in contrast between two opponents than India and New Zealand. And that is the case in many different levels. But this time around, when India take on the Kiwis in the first of two Test matches at the Uppal Stadium on Thursday, there will be one similarity between the occasional rivals. This will also be the beginning of a new era in Indian cricket. The post-Dravid and Laxman period.
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