For a while, a section of the sparse crowd on Monday began raising anti-Pakistan slogans. But they soon changed tack and focused on India’s win. The anti-Pak sentiment was due to the frosty relations between the two nations, who also occupy the top two spots in Test rankings.
India were displaced from the No 1 spot by Pakistan, whose gritty show in England earned them the honour for the first time.
Virat Kohli’s men are clawing back. They have the comfort of playing 13 Tests at home, where they are enjoying an unbeaten streak. A successful home campaign, which began with the creaming of New Zealand by 197 runs at the Green Park on Monday, could help them grab the spot with a comfortable cushion.
Of the last 11 Tests at home, since the 1-2 reversal against England in 2011-12, India have won 10 and while their batting hasn’t always exuded confidence, spinners R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have ensured the team is always a step ahead.
India will need these two, who took 16 of the 20 Kiwi wickets here, in their prime over the next few months if they want to excel.
Ashwin has the skill while Jadeja sticks to accuracy and subtle variation in pace.
The two were always going to test the Kiwis who had to bat out the day. Luke Ronchi and Mitchell Santner, neither an accomplished batsman, began well.
More than the pitch, the game was panning out in the mind. A capacity crowd raising a din on Sunday had perhaps overawed the Kiwis. They lost wickets to pressure. Monday, being a working day, let only a few fans in during the morning session. It gave the visitors some relief. But soon Ronchi lost composure and his wicket. Jadeja had broken through. There was some resistance but it wasn’t enough.
Kohli later said he believed batting out the last day was always out of the question. He knew his spinners would keep the Kiwis in fear.
“On a wicket that spins and bounces, you need to put the bowler under pressure,” said Kohli. Putting pressure on the India spinners was wishful thinking, as they are experienced on such surfaces.
Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson said they put the ball in the right areas for a long time.
Of Ashwin’s 203 wickets, 136 have come in India and 162 in Asia. Of Jadeja’s 77 scalps, 56 have come in India.
The last series India won at home, against South Africa, too had an imprint of the two and they covered the failing batsmen well.
After Monday’s win, Kohli conceded the batting needed to be strengthened. Buckle up is what he means as they did well in the second innings when the Kiwis had already lost the plot.
But so long as India have the spinners, he needn’t worry at home. “Well, obviously if you have a bowler of his (Ashwin’s) quality, along with Jadeja who is so accurate,” he added.