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The defensive prod


The previous drawn Test match was a result India savoured. This time, the result is the same but the feeling is one of disappointment. Sure, India won the series, but that was not an unexpected result. India was expected to win this without breaking into too much sweat. If they hadn’t, it would have shocked the world of cricket and perhaps New Zealanders too. The two sides were not in the same league in terms of talent and experience and a 1-0 result at the end of the day is flattering to this New Zealand side.

For a captain known to have a refreshingly different approach, Dhoni’s reluctance to declare first thing on the fourth day when India was 531 ahead is quite bizarre. Especially when it was well-known that the weather forecast for Tuesday was for rain. The Indian camp must have known it too. And yet, they did not feel 531 was enough to win, against this batting line-up with this bowling firepower. It is disappointingly reminiscent of Dravid’s decision to not enforce the follow-on in England 2 years ago. There too he was palpably playing safe to win the series, but it can be argued that this time there was an even stronger case to have a shot at the Kiwis with the ball. 531 was more than a “safe score”, it was an unreachable score.

This quintessentially Indian approach does not augur for a side that wants to be the number one Test side in the world. If you look at all the undisputable top Test sides in the history of the game, not one of them tended to pussyfoot around when even a sniff of victory was there. The men who took Australian cricket to those familiar heights in recent times - Border, Taylor, Waugh and Ponting - would have thrown the kitchen sink at the opposition after being 531 ahead with rain forecast on the last day regardless of the state of the series. Waugh, in fact, has said many times that he liked setting difficult but not impossible tasks for the opposition because to beat Australia then, the opposition had to play extraordinary cricket. That happened maybe 2-3% of the time, but the rest of the time Australia won spectacularly. And that 2-3% was a tremendous contribution to the legacy of Test cricket because they resulted in some fantastic turnarounds and unexpected victories.

But all said and done, the series victory here, despite its predictability, is a step forward for this Indian side (despite the disappointment of them not having been tested fully in quintessential seaming Kiwi conditions). The team’s rise to the summit will have far tougher challenges thrown its way. If it blinked here, in such a situation, can it stay unwaveringly focused on the grand prize for a sustained period of time? No easy answers here.

(Click here to know more about Jaideep)

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