2nd Test India vs NZ: Flat wicket, flatter Indian performance

  • N Ananthanarayanan, Hindustan Times, Wellington
  • |
  • Updated: Feb 18, 2014 01:15 IST
  • Brendon McCullum

    New Zealand's Brendon McCullum acknowledges fans as he walks from the field at the end of the day's play on Day 4 of the 2nd ...

  • Jimmy Neesham

    Jimmy Neesham (C) of New Zealand bats as MS Dhoni (L) and Mohammed Shami (R) lood on during Day 4 of the 2nd Test at ...

  • Brendon McCullum

    Brendon McCullum (R) of New Zealand bats as MS Dhoni looks on during Day 4 of the 2nd Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. ...

  • MS Dhoni

    MS Dhoni bowls during Day 4 of the 2nd Test against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. (AFP Photo)

  • Mohammed Shami

    Mohammed Shami celebrates the dismissal of New Zealand's BJ Watling in the second innings on day four of the second Test against India at the ...

  • Brendon McCullum

    New Zealand's Brendon McCullum and BJ Watling (R) leave the pitch for tea with a record partnership in the second innings on day four of ...

  • Virat Kohli

    Virat Kohli (R) appeals for an LBW on Brendon McCullum of New Zealand during Day 4 of the 2nd Test at the Basin Reserve in ...

  • BJ Watling

    BJ Watling of New Zealand bats on Day 4 of the 2nd Test agaimst India at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. (AFP Photo)

  • Zaheer Khan

    Zaheer Khan (L) bowls in the New Zealand second innings on day four of the second Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. (Reuters Photo)

  • Ishant Sharma

    Ishant Sharma (R) appeals for an LBW on Brendon McCullum (L) of New Zealand during Day 4 of the 2nd Test at the Basin Reserve ...

Ruthlessness is the hallmark of great teams, as West Indies and Australia showed during their eras. The key is aggression, making sure the opposition never gets a chance to come back once you take control of the match.

On this tour, where the gap between the teams has not been huge, the line still repeated by New Zealand players and officials has been about not taking the foot off the throat. When India look back on a disastrous tour, they will have themselves to blame for throwing away the advantage repeatedly when things were going their way.

Despite losing the ODIs 0-4, India held the upper hand in both Tests, only to concede ground by dropping catches. In both Auckland, where they eventually lost by 40 runs, and in Wellington, it was lack of concentration by fielders that has hurt them.

There must be a sense of déjà vu. New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum was let off twice, by Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma off his own bowling. The second reprieve came when he was on 36 and the Kiwis were staring at an innings defeat on the third afternoon. In the first Test, Murali Vijay at first slip dropped in-form Kane Williamson. He scored a century and his huge stand with McCullum left India chasing the game.

In 1990, wicketkeeper Kiran More dropped England opener Graham Gooch on 33 in the first Test at Lord’s. He finished on 333. McCullum is poised to become the first Kiwi batsman to score a triple century, his marathon knock having already lasted over 12 hours.

Dropped catches have particularly blunted the pace bowlers despite more favourable overseas conditions. Used to relying more on control, swing and seam on Indian pitches that don’t reward hitting the deck hard, they can ill-afford to miss chances. In Auckland, their tactic of banging the ball short only helped New Zealand amass a big first-innings total. Here, once the ball lost shine, they had to toil, as they could not extract much from the flat pitch.

In this Test, the punishment for those dropped catches was a 123-over wait. Poor effort on the field is inexcusable but Zaheer, Ishant and Shami will also have to look at their inability to create chances when conditions don’t favour them or the ball gets old.

It is the second time in four matches that they have come unstuck, despite producing some brilliant individual spells. In the Johannesburg Test, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers got stuck for 62.3 overs on the final day. That reduced India from chasing a near certain win to scrambling to a draw.

Former Kiwi pacer Ewen Chatfield had said on Sunday that Indian pacers should get their tactics right. “When you are on flat tracks, you must make them play all the time. Otherwise, you are running out of gas before the batter does.” That was not the case on Monday.

 

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