The fag end of a series in which India have only defeats to show and the revelations of the IPL spot-fixing inquiry meant MS Dhoni was the most sought after man on Thursday.
While his counterpart Brendon McCullum attended the media conference, the visiting skipper was conspicuous by his absence. His decision to stay away meant there were no comments on how the team planned to respond to the challenge of having to avoid a fourth straight overseas Test series defeat.
Dhoni had in this series taken it upon himself to explain every defeat. But on Thursday it definitely helped avoid questions in the wake of the inquiry report and comments by a senior police official to HT that a bookie had mentioned the name of the CSK skipper. Questions on the IPL controversy were ruled out even before Shikhar Dhawan could take questions from reporters. “No questions on IPL-related matters,” the team’s media manager, RN Baba announced.
Onus on pacers
Shikhar struck a century in the first Test at Auckland to shake off a lean phase. He briefly spoke about his resolve to stay calm and play straight. However, he left the onus of tackling the green Basin Reserve pitch on the pace bowlers.
The India pacers had skittled out the Kiwis for 105 in the second innings in the Auckland Test, although the visitors eventually fell short chasing a victory target of 407. Soon after the interaction ended, most of the India players stepped on to the ground, making a beeline to the pitch. After a brief chat with coach Duncan Fletcher, Dhoni knelt down, pressing the surface with both hands and then knocking on it.
MS Dhoni named in secret Justice Mudgal IPL probe report given to SC
Dhoni had barely walked away and Fletcher was still on the edge of the pitch with arms folded when the groundsmen spread the hessian cover over it. Letting moisture escape was not an option as the home pacers look to exploit the lateral movement on the pitch. They watered the adjacent pitches on both sides for good measure.
There was another man who has maintained his silence throughout this series, although he has provided the biggest impact. But Shane Bond, who is NZ’s bowling coach, has shown how good his monitoring skills are. His role in helping the Kiwi pacers keeping the India batsmen on a tight leash has been vital.