|Player:||G Gambhir, MS Dhoni, Z Khan, I Sharma, LRPL Taylor, JD Ryder, BB McCullum, DL Vettori|
|Event:||India in New Zealand 2008/09|
DateLine: 7th April 2009
It is indeed unfortunate that it was rain that brought the curtain down on the India-New Zealand series, but neither the Indian team, not its supporters, would be complaining. New Zealand has never really been a happy hunting ground for India, and recent forays there have been nothing less than disasters. But all that has changed, finally.
Even before the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led team left for New Zealand, there were enough indications that if there was ever to be an Indian team that would do well there, it would be this one. The side had improved in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years had teeth to grind all kinds of challenges.
The biggest advantage for this team was the way the fast bowling department had come up. Zaheer Khan has been the backbone of the India seam attack for quite some time now with Ishant Sharma having made his mark in no uncertain terms, this was indeed a potent attack. Though the third seamer’s place has not been cemented so far, Munaf Patel at least did enough to frowns of worry away from Dhoni’s brow.
The worries it seems were all reserved for Daniel Vettori. Past Indian teams had been done in to pitches that were perfect for the New Zealand, as their speedsters used the seam and swing movement to telling effect. But that was now a double-edged weapon, since what the Kiwi bowlers could do, Zaheer and Ishant could do better.
If one were to look at the relative strengths of the sides, the Indian bowling, man for man, was way better than the New Zealand challenge. The visitors’ spin department was the one that actually decided the Test series, with Harbhajan Singh’s 6/63 at Hamilton tilting the issue in the visitors’ favour. Given that New Zealand had two specialist spinners in Vettori and Jeetan Patel to choose from, one would have assumed that they would have done well in tandem. But the pitches were far more solid this time around, and the Indian batting, an awesome sight on an average day, became formidable as the series passed. The willow work was begun by the Little Big Man in Hamilton, Sachin Tendulkar notching up a polished 160 in India’s winning total. But if there was one batsman who really made the series his own, it was Gautam Gambhir. One irresponsible shot in the first innings in Napier seemed to bring the best out of the Delhi left-hander, as he followed that up with two centuries in the next three innings.
New Zealand would certainly be left to rue what could have been. After their innings in the second Test at Napier, they should surely have come away on level terms, but they just could not find enough to break through the Indian batting, and the visitors played out the match without any real panic, despite having to follow-on. New Zealand did find their heroes, not least in Jesse Ryder, the effervescent Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor, but as far as team efforts go, it really did leave a lot to be desired.
So as the curtain came down on the series, which had some moments of keen contest, it was the better side that came out winners. Even Daniel Vettori and his side would concede that. As for the Indians, this was indeed a rare win, coming after 1967-68. This is indeed one to cherish.