New Zealand took great pride in the fact that they went into the last day of the Napier Test being the only team that could realistically win the game. The shoe is on the other foot in a way, going into the last game as India are the only side who can win the series. New Zealand are desperate to do well, but even the ultimate result will only earn them a 1-1 draw.
This Indian team will know that all they need to do is protect their 1-0 lead, but you can be sure that is not the kind of thinking they will take into the final Test. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s attitude of forever pressing forward, looking for outright wins is well documented and it came as no surprise that he said as much in the lead-up to the match.
“It’s important to win the game, what you have done in the Test series so far doesn’t have much importance,” Dhoni said on Thursday. “It is one of the most crucial games you will play. Once you have the mindset of going for a draw, you are not aggressive enough to win a Test match. We will approach the game in the same way as we approached the first and the second Tests.”
At the other end of the spectrum, you have New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori, normally conservative and meticulous, looking for desperate measures to ensure that India do not win the series outright.
When asked if he would be willing to serve up a sporting declaration in a bid to push for victory, Vettori said: “You mean with Sehwag out?” before admitting that his team had no other option. “We have to go out with that mentality. It’s not a line of thinking I always think along, but we realise a 1-1 series would be a great result for us. So, we have to take every opportunity to win the Test.”
Dhoni said he was surprised to be greeted by a brown pitch but would not commit on whether he had recovered completely from his back troubles. “My back has improved a lot, but it’s vital that we remember it’s a Test, not a one-day game where you know the maximum you have to keep for is 50 overs.” Dhoni then sprung a surprise, claiming that his presence or otherwise would not make a huge difference to the team. “I don’t think I am that type of a player on whom the team relies a lot,” he said. “Me playing or not playing, the team is not too bothered about it, it doesn’t have a big impact on the team.”