India may be tipped to be the favourites for the upcoming Test series at home against New Zealand, but coach Anil Kumble warned on Tuesday that the visitors have enough firepower in their bowling arsenal to surprise the hosts.
According to Kumble, the Indian batsmen need to be wary of the Kiwi spinners during the three-Test series which start at the Green Park Stadium here later this week. The Indian coach believes that the visitors' proficiency in the spin department, coupled with their all-round ability, may prove to be a handful for his wards.
"New Zealand have always done really well. They are not just good at home, they tour really well. The fact is that they have three spinners. Yes, we watched them, at least I watched the two spinners out of three in T20 World Cup where they played a significant role in the team," Kumble said.
"They have all the three different spin variations -- left-arm spinner, off-spinner and leg-spinner. That's something which you don't see often in a foreign team," Kumble told reporters here on Tuesday.
"Heartening to see spinners play a major role in other teams and not just the Indian team, but also in foreign teams. Yes, we respect the opponents, not just in the spin department but in all departments, in the all-round ability of the New Zealand side," he added.
The legendary leg-spinner also asserted that the Indian team management has not asked the curator to prepare a spin-friendly track, insisting that his boys are ready to perform in all conditions.
"Nobody is demanding anything. We will go into the game thinking that our spinners are better. We hope the performance we produced in the West Indies continues at home as well. Yes, there will be spin and opinions will be formed after the first ball. But since I am the coach, I can't think like that. We make our plans as the game goes on," Kumble said.
"According to me, it is a typical Kanpur wicket. It is start of the season, it has rained a lot and the surface has not been used much of late. It is looking good. Having said that, I believe that the talk should be about cricket that is played on the pitch and not the pitch. In the team meetings, we have discussed this only. Whatever wicket we get, we will adapt and play," he added.
The Indians have suffered a setback with fast bowler Ishant Sharma ruled out of the opening Test due to illness.
"Ishant Sharma is recovering from chikungunya so he is not available for this Test match. We will be closely monitoring his progress with the doctors and then we will take a call (on his selection) after this Test match," Kumble informed.
"For this Test, the team management has decided that we would not need a replacement. We have 14 players and will select our playing XI from among them."
Kumble also opined that with cricketers playing around the world throughout the year these days, playing in home conditions is not a very big advantage.
"I don't think there any intrigue left. The challenge is to adapt to the conditions as quickly as possible. Equally the same for the home team as well. You playing so much cricket and it is all about adapting to the challenges that come you way," the 45-year-old said.
"The home team certainly has the advantage in these conditions but for a foreign team, the conditions are no longer alien. Most of the New Zealand players have played in the IPL, so they know what to expect and how to adapt."
With a long season facing his team, Kumble stressed on the importance of properly managing the workload of each player and taking it one match at a time.
"The immediate task on hand is the focus but we are also keeping in mind the long season ahead. 13 Tests in less than six months is not easy on the players, their workloads. We will keep track of that during preparations," he said.
"You would notice as the series goes along, there will will be less time spent in between matches on the cricket field. So whatever we need to address, we will only address those isses. This is like the second summer in India, just before the winter sets in. We are looking at six months but from a team's perspective, we are focussing on this match for now."
Kumble also offered his condolences on behalf of the team to the soldiers of Indian Army who lost their lives in a terrorist attack in the town of Uri in Jammu and Kashmir near the Line of Control early on Sunday moring.
While 17 soldiers died during the attack, one of the 30 injured later succumbed in hospital, taking the toll to 18.
"Yes, in terms of our support to the people who safeguard all of us, we deeply condone their death. We honout their matryrdom. It is never easy for the families. As Indian team, we salute the bravehearts. The respect from our side will always be there," Kumble said.
The Kanpur Test will be India's 500th match in the longest format. Kumble said it was a great milestone, asserting that the Indians will try their best to win the Test in order to make it a memorable occassion.
"For me, part of the Indian team was special and a great honour. Starting from 1932 till today, there have been great players who have contributed this great legacy of 499 Tests. Each of them has looked to raise the bar and this team is no different. All of us should celebrate this milestone and recollect the memories provided by the former players," he said.
"Want not only want to win this Test, but also the series."
(With IANS inputs)