November 23, 2010

India finally in top gear at Nagpur to control damage


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Not surprisingly India performed the damage control act by winning the third and final Test against New Zealand at Nagpur after having given below par performance in the previous two Tests to keep the series alive.

There was always an element of ‘shock’ as well as ‘suspicion’ over the fate of the previous two Tests in which the hosts had looked like obliging the Black Caps with draws.

Obviously the New Zealanders were not the only ones ‘obliged’ with the unlikely result of the first couple of Test matches at Ahmedabad and Hyderabad where the hosts were reluctant to emerge victorious.

As we saw over three days and a bit at Nagpur the Black Caps had neither the firepower nor the resources to come to terms with the mighty Indian side, that has been flying high for the past couple of years.

India had to play below par or under-perform in those games to let New Zealand, fresh from a bashing in Bangladesh, come close because there was a huge gulf between the two teams and a draw was as good as a massive win for the visitors.

New Zealand would not have dreamt of drawing the first two Tests in India but courtesy some rather familiar ‘unseen’ factors the unlikeliest of results were witnessed in those games.

India didn’t seem to have the plan to repeat Ahmedabad and Hyderabad at Nagpur and the entire world saw what has happened there. Even the absence of their champion fast bowler, Zaheer Khan, didn’t make a difference.

India could have lost quite a few ranking points even at being top of the ladder if they let New Zealand draw at Nagpur too. I think this could have been the most likely factor that prompted the hosts to play the game the way they should have played in the last two Tests as well.

India won the third Test by a margin of an innings and 198 runs. They could have easily registered innings victories in the last two Tests as well, had they desired so.

The inexperienced New Zealand side was at their mercy from day one of the series. There could not have been a better opportunity to whitewash the Black Caps who had come to India with no hopes of challenging the home side.

As someone had remarked at the start of the series it was to be a mismatch. It should have been that way throughout the series but the Indians, not unexpectedly, chose to do things that looked ‘strange’ to the masses only.

Those having followed and covered India’s matches over the years did know that there would be some drama during the New Zealand which the home side was not going to be interested in winning as convincingly as was being anticipated.

Not many experts would disagree that India could have blasted New Zealand inside three days in each of the three Tests. That would not have only enthralled the spectators but also helped in preparing for the upcoming tougher assignments with greater confidence. They would have certainly been in a better frame of mind having done it three times rather than once.


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