In the end, India squeezed home in a terrific Test match. Regardless of the cynics, who may point to another Test loss, New Zealand can be proud of the vast improvement and the fight they showed. Particularly, the effort of the bowlers was commendable.
On the first day, it was a
captain's innings from Ross Taylor --- a spectacular counter-attacking century, which gave the Kiwis confidence and, more importantly, a competitive first innings total.
In both the India innings, however, the partnerships between MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli proved to be the difference between the sides. With India five down for 179 in the first innings, New Zealand would have eyed a substantial first innings lead but MS and Virat combined to take the score to parity.
Again, at 166 for five in their second innings, and needing 95 for victory, they came together to guide India home.
The good news for Indian fans is that they knew that such situations brought the best out of their captain, but in ODIs. Now, they've found that Virat can do the same in Tests.
When you lose players like Dravid and Laxman, you are losing men who can handle pressure. It's not just technique and ability that needs to be replaced but temperament, which is even more critical in important games.
Virat seems to possess that quality. Good players understand that more the difficult and challenging the circumstance, bigger the opportunity to shine. The ability to concentrate and avoid the thought of victory or failure is a difficult discipline to master.
The most common psychological reason why climbers fail to reach the summit is because they start thinking about reaching the top. Such thoughts take the mind off from where it needs to be.
I am not suggesting that MS and Virat start climbing mountains but batting to reach a target is similar. It's about taking it ball by ball and understanding that the result will take care of itself providing you keep applying yourself to the present.
Another feature on the final day was the remarks of the winning captain, when he backed his players and emphasised on learning. He said the boys who were coming in were not replacing anyone.
He gently hinted that some of them needed to be more productive with the bat. And he emphatically communicated to the groundsmen that he would prefer to play on wickets that turned.
Why wouldn't you? With Ashwin and Ojha performing so well, and England and Australia just round the corner!
Smart leadership. Subtle and direct.
The writer is a former India coach.
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