India vs New Zealand: Celebrate victory, but not overlook the failures

Vineet Ramakrishnan/

India won against New Zealand and a thrilling chase as it is being called led to a 2-0 series victory and once again all seems to be well with the Indian team.

0-8 was India’s record in Tests last season. 2-0 is this season’s record in Tests so far for India. Next up in the longer format is England at home -- 4-match series. Will it be 6-0? Could be a possibility looking at the way India batted against the Kiwis. More precisely the way Virat Kohli, Cheteshwara Pujara and even MS Dhoni batted on the home turf. The optimism is also fuelled by the way Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and even Umesh Yadav bowled in the home conditions.

Indian cricket team had seemed to be heading into a black hole when they were away touring England and Australia. It was like an unending abyss of disappointment. The captain with the ‘Midas’ touch was struggling. The most feared opening pair of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag started reminding us of the batting partnerships between Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad. The duo did not have a 50+ partnership since 2011 and the lean patch extended till the 2nd Test match against New Zealand at Bangalore.

Rahul Dravid retired after Australian tour due to a horrible series Down Under. He was clean bowled too often and this technically sound cricketer was accused of old age. VVS Laxman, another master craftsman who had forged the Indian cricket legacy post 2000 listened to his inner voice and decided to hang up his boots. He was hurt by the comments that he was blocking the place for youngsters. He even said sorry to Pujara for making him wait till the last moment.

Sachin Tendulkar also, oops… one shall not comment on the ‘GOD’. I will have to let this pass.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s witty post match comments and press conferences were being scrutinized as petty excuses then. Our promising bowling unit, well it just remained promising.

But, come India and the home conditions, New Zealand was served for them in a platter. 2-match Test series in Hyderabad and Bangalore. India won it 2-0, but the question is” how inconsequential was this Test series?

The top order had failed miserably earlier; chances could have been given to players cooling their heels on the sidelines. But no, winning was the priority. Ajinkya Rahane still is cooling his heels. Suresh Raina was incapable of playing the rising delivery not only in Australia and England but also in the West Indies. He scored 3 runs in the first Test, 55 and 0 in the second Test. In his last 10 innings he has scored: 78, 12, 1, 4, 10, 0, 0, 3, 55, and 0 -- not a performance worthy of a place in the national squad one may think, but be assured he will don the whites against England coming November.

The selectors have shot down the best possible opportunity to test their fringe players. VVS Laxman stated in his retirement press conference that in his absence the youngsters will get a chance to test themselves ahead of the tough England home series. Though one might question the timing of Laxman’s retirement, he was spot on about the future of Indian cricket.

MS Dhoni, like any other good captain has a tendency to trust and back a player he likes or he feels has the potential to excel. Dhoni is clearly backing Raina a lot. Ganguly backed Yuvraj, Zaheer and Harbhajan, and Dhoni has so far back RP Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Vinay Kumar and the entire CSK setup. The players backed by Ganguly delivered but unfortunately Dhoni’s above mentioned men have disappointed for long. Suresh Raina in Tests is going that way as well. Ravichandran Ashwin, though has been an exception in this list of disappointments.

Also, this Test series has brought a series victory for the fans. The Kiwis were thrashed by an innings and 115 runs at Hyderabad and then a hard fought win for the hosts at Bangalore. Expect victory and you make victory, but the trouble is, one forgets about all the failures.

Gautam Gambhir has not scored a century in 40 innings that is 22 Tests. He has gone past 50+ score seven times in those 40 innings and only in the South Africa (2011) series did he have a sequence of good scores (80, 93, 64). His last century (116) was against Bangladesh in 2010 which was 8 series ago.

Virender Sehwag in comparison has done a tad better with a good sequence of scores on couple of occasions but the shocking part is that even Viru has failed to get a score over hundred in 30 innings which comes to 14 Test matches and 5 series.

But again, no one will notice this because we have won and Ajinkya Rahane will continue to cool his heels.

Cheteshwara Pujara and Virat Kohli as expected delivered. This was a litmus Test for them and the Indian batting line-up which was without Laxman and Dravid. Both players showed temperament, technique and the willingness to excel and they did.

The furor now is about Sachin Tendulkar’s age and he is literally being pushed to retire. And amidst this free-for-all commotion the real issue regarding the Indian cricket team is being sidelined. What New Zealand will take away from the series will be the performances of their fast bowlers, their young fast bowlers -- Tim Southee (23 yrs), Trent Boult (23 yrs) and Doug Bracewell (21 yrs). When the ball seamed around a bit, these bowlers had the Indians in trouble.

Now over to the Indian bowling unit -- Umesh Yadav was impressive but was wayward. Zaheer Khan has been the spearhead but for how long will he be around? Ishant Sharma is battling injuries, one Test wonder Jaydev Unadkat does not look like an international material, Vinay Kumar has been a disappointment and without any pace he will only be useful to stack up numbers. Irfan Pathan mysteriously is missing out and Munaf Patel seems to have lost the will to play cricket.

So going by this, India’s bowling unit is nothing special and as compared other teams -- Pattinson, Cummins and Starc for Australia, Steyn, Philander, Morkel for South Africa, Finn, Tremlett and Broad for England, the Indian fast bowling unit is pathetic.

But, Ravichandran Ashwin has led the way brilliantly and Ojha’s performance in the series was a plus. Harbhajan Singh definitely has the class to deliver. Ashwin-Ojha partnership was also the other positive aspect about India (the other being Pujara and Kohli).

In the end, India won against New Zeeland and a thrilling chase as it is being called led to a 2-0 series victory and once again all seems to be well with the Indian team.

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