Having walloped India in the Tests as well as the one-day series that has just ended, New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming today threw a challenge to the Indians -- if his team was confronted with turning wickets during its tour of India later this year "we are ready to face it".
New Zealand's most successful cricket captain ever, the astute skipper said in an interview that he had no role in the controversial green-top wickets that caused immense problems to the formidable Indian batting line-up resulting in their loss of both the Tests and five of the seven one-dayers.
"We didn't want green, seaming wickets. We wanted bouncy strips. It's not my idea," Fleming said.
"I want to promote cricket in New Zealand. We didn't want green wickets at all. We have had better wickets in the past. It's not good for cricket either.
"But if we get turners in India, we are ready to face it with a challenge," he said referring to the possibility of India preparing spinner-friendly wickets when New Zealand go for the return tour in October.
Fleming said the comprehensive victory against India had put his side in the right frame of mind ahead of next month's World Cup. He said the two losses did not bother him much since he was working on a few plans after having already won the one-day series.
"Though we lost two games, we have formed a process of performing well as a unit. After winning the first four games, it gave the opportunity to finalise a few things."
But despite the lop-sided victory against India, Fleming was not ready to count New Zealand as one of the favourites for the World Cup. "I don't think New Zealand is one of the favourites. I think there are better quality sides around," he said.
"We can combine to be a good side. On our day we can beat any team in the world but it's a case of stringing together performances."
Fleming said his team's worth would be judged by how they fare against Australia, a team which, he said, brought the best out of New Zealand. "We always play well against them because of the style of play we adopt. It's in line with Australian aggressiveness. But we are not as consistent as them.
"It's a challenge to play against Australia and I'm sure they feel the same. We both enjoy good competition.
"New Zealand probably judge their benchmark how they go against Australia. It's probably to go with rivalry in rugby and cricket. We have got a history behind it. We know we have to rise to compete against Australia. It brings out the best in us."
Going by that yardstick, Fleming probably had his dream series last year when his side consistently defeated Australia in a tri-nations tournament and even manipulated the bonus point rule to keep the Aussies out of the final -- a result which perhaps contributed in the decision to sack Steve Waugh as captain of the one-day team.
But Fleming denied his team had deliberately let go a chance to win bonus points which allowed South Africa to sneak into the final ahead of Australia
"I did not do it deliberately. It was not part of a plan. It probably was their own plan (to remove Steve Waugh) and Australian cricket was looking for a change of direction. "I would be really disappointed to know I had something to do with it (sacking of Steve Waugh)," he said.
Fleming, in fact, said Steve Waugh was probably one of the best captains ever and he himself had learnt quite a bit from him about the art of leading a team on the cricket field.
"I have learnt bits and pieces from here and there but I really enjoy Steve Waugh. He is a wonderful individual and I have enjoyed my experiences with him," he said. "Martin Crowe was also a very good captain but you have to perform your own sort of identity," he said.
Playing down legendary Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne's assessment that he was the brightest of all present day captains, Fleming said, "It's a compliment to get something like that from a quality player like Shane. He is very genuine. That is why it's is a very nice thing to say. I know him well and have enjoyed my time with him.
"But I guess it was a bit different with me. I know the Australian philosophy of praising other teams and individuals. Shane had probably put me behind two other Australians but the way I was potrayed in the media, it was nice," he said.
Fleming said he also liked the leaderships qualities of former England skipper Mike Brearley and Australian captain Ian Chappell. "I have also read Mike Brearley and Ian Chappell. I have enjoyed aspects of Brearley's books and his captaincy."
He said he had a long way to go to reach those standards. "I have to really concentrate on my captaincy to bring my leadership up. The win in the ICC knock-out in Nairobi (in 2001) was a special moment for me. "The win in Nairobi was very special. It was the first tournament we won overseas. It showed how important it was to believe in our ability," he said.
Fleming said he was not affected by criticisms on his batting. "It keeps me on my toes. People do criticise. I believe I am one of New Zealand's high quality players and have some good figures to show for it. My figures have improved and I will continue to prove that for the next few years."
Fleming, the longest-serving New Zealand captain, has scored two Test hundreds in the last 12 months but in the last 100 one-day innings, he hasn't reached a three-figure mark.
"I've got two Test hundreds in the last 12 months. It's a good sign. But I haven't got a one-day hundred for long and I feel the pressure. But wickets in New Zealand are not conducive for big scores. However, I need to apply a little bit more."
Fleming has scored 4297 runs in 73 Tests at an average of 36.11 with four hundreds and 33 fifties while in one-dayers, he has 5081 runs at 30.61 with three centuries from 189 games.