India took the series 2-0 against New Zealand. It looked a cruise after Dhoni hoick one out of the park for a six and claim victory in a match that swayed both ways. New Zealand stepping straight into the Test arena without a practice game against a tough team at home. More on that after the review of the series. Pujara and Kohi, stepping into Laxman and Dravid shoes. A big responsibility. They have done satisfactory considering what they would be weigh against for next few seasons if not next few years.
Indian pitches Bowler's graveyard?
Indian is not for the people who come on with their wares and sell them using techniques know to them. It doesn't work in India. The traditional seam and bounce of pitches of Australia, SAf and erstwhile West Indies, is missing neither there is swing of English pitches that prevail here. The lack of bounce, reverse swing, cross seem cutters are the order of the day. The bowlers have to mix it all up along with the conventional bowling. A change in length too, too short or too full will make the batsman look really cool and the fielding captain a fool. Martin proved it in some extent in the first test, let down by butter finger catching. Southee truly nailed the Indian batsmen in the first innings in the second test. I mean seven wickets on any pitch is commendable especially against, Indian batsmen on Indian pitches. Indian pitches calls for innovation and different mindset for the bowlers wanting to claim success against Indian batsmen.
The difference was fielding.
Indian fielding was top class, Dravid and Laxman did what they did with the bat but apart from exemplary batsmen they were good catches as well. Fielding was the difference, NZ dropped catches at crucial moments, which widening of the series to 2-0. NZ are expected to be good fielding side but catching for some reason was not class. Sehwag took some awesome catches off spinners, close in catching was also really very good. Ashwin and Ojha with the ball, Pujara and Kohli have ticked most boxes, now it's the question of consistency over the period.
Rosco and Southee come to rescue on the front
Ross Taylor shares the dais of audacity with Sehwag. Ross Taylor came out with intent and batted with intent, he matched fire and fire and at given point in time he literally swept the Indian spinners all around the park. A very comprehensive strokeful century just lit up the chances for NZ, but sadly in the end, he was out sweeping, and in the second innings he almost undid Southee's good work. Ross Taylor will get better, I don't know if Vettori will come back as captain. But I think McCullum on top of the order is asking a bit too much. He should be batting at five or six and keeping wickets. A little jig at the batting order and some more players will to bid their time at the crease will help Kiwis, coz we know they are good with in fielding and bowling. Southee kept it on the string and Indian batsmen were caught napping, injudicious shot selection did them in. They fell away like nine pins, but by then India had almost closed in on NZ. It was NZ onus to set a challenging target for India on the fourth innings. It was not before Virat scored a century, a brilliant effort, he deserved it, he had time to settle on the crease, he may have got one in the first test, wasn't to be. He got one in trying circumstances in the second test,with the team against the wall. He literally cashed in on Tendulkar's poor run. The challenge for Ojha, Ashwin, Pujara, Kohli, and Yadav and may be Raina is to build upon this fabulous start of the season and take it forward when tougher challenges come along.
NZ third innings wasted chance.
It was time for Indian spinners to come to the fore, that that they had not bagged wickets in the previous innings or match. The field set up just helped in compelling the batsman to think on the defensive. Ashwin ran thought the Kiwi batting line up, it was a wedding procession. Ojha fed Rosco for sweep shot, he bit more than he could chew, he was trapped leg before. Kane Williamson almost, played the perfect forward defense only to edge one to Sehwag. Ashwin churned out classical off spinners dismissals. Kiwis would have liked to have some more runs but Indian bowlers kept them in check. A solid start would be enough to seal the series.
Final Innings chase.
Indians traditionally haven't been good chaser. It was always preferred to set the total and wait for the mistake. In the last years (from 2000) in tests and ODIs arena under the aegis of Dravid and Laxman, batsman have learnt to construct and map out the chase. Indian fans have been witnessed to remarkable back to the front chases, be it series victory in that Lords final when Yuvraj and Kaif came together at 128/5 to chase down 327, be it record number of chases in times when Dravid was captain, no one may want to forget Dhoni's six to claim India's world cup victory. There are various reasons to it, one of them is stringing partnership. Sehwag and Gambhir almost exploded scoring at a fair rate before both convinced themselves to get out, a fragile partnership, Pujara showed glimpses of his mettle, a flurry of wickets and Virat and Dhoni, master of chases in current form and abilities guided the ship home and ensured a victory.
Two cents worth of advice to The Custodians of the Game.
If ICC is indeed serious about Test Cricket and all that the song and dance about IPL should stop. It is the mandate of ICC to see whats happening in test Arena, how to make it more competitive, how to balance DRS and tradition? How the tour should be structured?The top three or four teams should play five test match, I am pointing to England South Africa series. I don't remember when India last played five test series.
A good cricket contest will have people following, be it a T20 an ODI or Test. There is scope for cutting down ODI, have three or four teams tournaments in different venues. England had played an ODI series against Aussies, we might as well have had a very competitive tri-series, which sadly never happened. We would have cheered for a five match test series, which didn't happen. An ideal tour should have a three matches ODI series, a full first class match, a practice match followed by Test series and ending with a couple of T 20 matches. Thats ideally speaking. But if a tour is suited around this formula, quality of cricket will improve which would mean more following and probably more revenues. It is easier said than done, but it should be done for the sake of cricket followers for whom the game is played.