Christchurch:India's recent success against top sides like Australia notwithstanding, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni says his team does not start as favourite against New Zealand although it is better-prepared to handle the possible seaming conditions during the tour.
"It's not about what is going around in the media or who is considered favourite. You start from scratch when you go out to the middle. Whatever we have been doing in the past one year we have to do again. It doesn't really change," Dhoni said after the team's arrival in Christchurch on Friday.
Dhoni said his team, which plays two Twenty20 matches, a five-ODI series followed by three Tests during the 48-day tour, will have to adapt quickly as it prepares to take on a team that is dangerous as a unit. India has not won a Test series in New Zealand for the past 41 years.
"For me the New Zealand team is more about what they are as a unit, not individuals. That's their asset. They play well as a team. They back each other. They are a competitive side. It will be a good tour if the weather doesn't spoil it," said Dhoni.
The Indians were welcomed by rain after their 27-hour, bone-weary travel from Mumbai to Christchurch, prolonged by two transit layovers at Hong Kong (four hours) and Auckland (three hours).
Dhoni said the ODI series triumph against Sri Lanka will stand the Indians in good stead, just as the Kiwis would benefit from the drawn ODI series against Australia.
"It really helps to have tough, competitive cricket under the belt before a big series. You learn a lot. It's not always just about winning or losing. We put a lot of emphasis on the effort we give on the field and believe a lot in the process. The series against Australia will help the New Zealanders. In the same way, playing in tough conditions in Sri Lanka helped us," he said.
The 26-year-old captain said the youngsters will have to adapt quickly if the team has to perform to its potential.
"It's important to practice well and adapt quickly. The next few days will be important. Most of the guys haven't toured New Zealand before.
"The conditions are very different out here. We now have more firepower to exploit the conditions, whether they are seaming conditions or a batting paradise. The first seven days will be important," he said.
Dhoni said his pacers are looking forward to exploiting the seaming conditions here.
"The seamers will get a bit of help. That is the first thing that comes to your mind. Apart from that it is windy here. We know a bit about the conditions. But it is about adaptability.
"It helps that more or less the same group is playing in the three formats rather than have five guys coming in just for the Tests. Then it takes them more time to get used to the conditions and that definitely doesn't help the team," Dhoni said.
He said the tour would be a massive learning experience for the youngsters in the side, many of whom are coming here for the first time.
"It's not only about being extraordinarily talented. It's about knowing your limitations and not committing the same mistakes over and over. It will be a good learning curve for the youngsters. For those who perform it will be a real confidence booster, for those who don't do so well it will be a valuable learning experience," he said.
Asked about the team's strategy for the two Tenty20 games, Dhoni said, "You have to have a few ideas as there is not much time to come up with an idea on the field. Twenty20 is played around cricketers who are naturally aggressive. You want people to play fearless cricket. There will be times when you have a collapse."
"But at the end of the day the bowlers have to be innovative. There's no such thing as a good ball in Twenty20. If you're consistently looking to bowl a yorker the batsman can play a scoop shot over fine-leg. As a bowler you have to out-think the batsman. Bowlers are getting more and more shrewd," he added.
Apart from cricket, Dhoni said he was also looking forward to enjoy the natural splendour of New Zealand.
"This country is really beautiful. So, in the 48 days that we are around we want to enjoy the country. It shouldn't be that we just play cricket and go back to India without seeing anything of New Zealand. There's a lot to do out here. And there are not many people to disturb you either," Dhoni said.