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Kohli’s leadership, encouraging crowds: 5 lessons from India vs NZ series

India beat New Zealand by 321 runs to win the third and final Test in Indore on Tuesday, completing a 3-0 series whitewash.

cricket Updated: Oct 12, 2016 18:42 IST
AFP
Virat Kohli

India pose with the ICC Test Championship mace following their win in Indore.(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT PHOTO)

India beat New Zealand by 321 runs to win the third and final Test in Indore on Tuesday, completing a 3-0 series whitewash. The hosts also officially returned to the top of the Test rankings after reclaiming the number one spot from Pakistan after winning the second match in Kolkata.

Here are five things we learned from India’s cleansweep over the Black Caps:

Kohli leads by example

Kohli became the first Indian Test captain to score two double tons. (AP)

Skipper Virat Kohli’s all-round performance was one of the prime reasons for India’s second successive whitewash against New Zealand at home. As well as leading India to the top of the world Test rankings with some astute captaincy, Kohli registered his first three-figure score at home since taking over from MS Dhoni as Test skipper in December 2014.

Kohli’s most eye-catching performances since then have been in ODI or T20 cricket under Dhoni’s continued captaincy. But his career-best 211 in Indore was proof that the burden of captaincy has not affected his game.

Awesome Ashwin

Ashwin won his fourth successive man-of-the-series award. (REUTERS)

Ravichandran Ashwin’s last international appearance at home before the New Zealand series had consisted of just two overs in the World Twenty20 semi-final against the West Indies, with Dhoni having apparently lost confidence in the lanky off-spinner.

How times change.

After claiming 27 wickets to flatten the New Zealand batting, Ashwin was named man of the match as well as of the series and confirmed his status as Kohli’s go-to man. New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, one of the game’s finest batsmen, was dismissed in all his four innings by Ashwin, who took three five-wicket hauls. “He has shown his class (and) deserved to be man of series,” was Williamson’s verdict.

War of attrition

Not a single New Zealand batsman managed to score more than 200 runs in the series. (AFP)

Anyone assessing the difference between the teams need only look at the batting statistics. There’s little doubting the class of the likes of Williamson, Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill but no Kiwi batsman managed to post a century in the three Tests or compile more than 200 runs throughout the series.

Plenty of New Zealand’s batsmen have experience of local conditions in T20 cricket as regulars in the Indian Premier League but they failed to exhibit the different skill sets -- and mindsets -- needed to succeed on the slower Test pitches. New Zealand’s refusal to temper their attacking style has generally served them well but Williamson acknowledged India had prospered by playing “very patiently” at times and had a better battle plan for a “war of attrition”.

India’s top order woes

Dhawan played a poor shot to perish in the first morning of the second Test and was out injured in the third. (AFP)

Despite their overall dominance of the Black Caps, India still struggle to find an effective opening partnership. Gautam Gambhir’s recall after two years in the wilderness gave India their fifth different combination at the top of the order in the last 14 Tests but to no obvious effect. Four series have now passed since India’s openers posted a century partnership and Shikhar Dhawan -- still a force to be reckoned with in short-form cricket -- could well be vulnerable after scoring a solitary half-century in his last eight Tests.

Test cricket still a draw

The crowd turnout, especially in Indore and Kanpur was an encouraging sign for the future of Test cricket. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT PHOTO)

As the debate over Test cricket’s future intensifies, the spectator turnout was heartening. From Kanpur’s Green Park, which celebrated the country’s 500th Test, to India’s newest Test venue -- Indore’s Holkar Stadium -- the matches saw decent crowds and even some packed houses.

The Indian board’s plan of taking Test cricket to smaller stadiums in a marathon home season appears to be working well. Next up are England, whose first two Tests will be in Rajkot and Visakhapatnam, neither of whom have hosted a Test before. “Taking Test matches to the small cities like Indore has worked wonders... It will definitely help build the popularity of Test cricket,” said Board of Control for Cricket in India president Anurag Thakur.

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