A lot of gains for the Kiwis

THE New Zealanders took home more from the two-Test series than the Indians. Stephen Fleming and his men coped with the conditions extremely well.


Nathan Astle and Craig McMillan showed great maturity while saving the game for New Zealand in Ahmedabad. — Pic. VIVEK BENDRE-

THE New Zealanders took home more from the two-Test series than the Indians. Stephen Fleming and his men coped with the conditions extremely well.

For a side that came to India without its strike bowler, Shane Bond, New Zealand stretched India at Mohali, after hanging on to save the first Test in Ahmedabad. The Kiwis deserve plenty of credit for that. Stephen Fleming led the side in an astute manner and he definitely is among the better captains I have seen. The team rallied around its skipper.

The Kiwis' gains from the Test series were immense. Mark Richardson has been in fine form for New Zealand over the last two years, but the side has struggled to find a partner for him. Lou Vincent, in this series, showed that he could form a long-time association with Richardson.

Vincent coped well with a final-day pressure situation in Ahmedabad and laid a solid foundation with Richardson for a huge Kiwi first innings total at Mohali. He is unafraid to play his shots and could form a useful right-left combination with Richardson.

Richardson is a limited player, but makes the most of what he has with a sound gameplan and an approach where discipline is the key. I feel Richardson has made a big difference to this New Zealand side, bringing solidity to the top of the order.

When Craig McMillan travelled to India, he must have been under considerable pressure, having struggled during the home series against India and subsequently losing his Test place. He has returned with a bang.

He is extremely positive in his approach, and even during the phase where the Kiwis were striving to salvage a draw at Motera, he produced some audacious strokes. McMillan has a lot more to offer to Kiwi cricket and he must have gained enormously in confidence from the Test series.

Similarly, Nathan Astle arrived in India after undergoing surgery on his troublesome knee, and, though a recurrence of pain has ruled him out of the ODI tri-series, he came up with crucial knocks in Motera, his first innings hundred rescuing New Zealand from a precarious position on day two after Zaheer Khan had jolted the innings with three quick strikes with the new ball. Looking back, Astle's hundred was the most important knock of the series, for it allowed the Kiwis to stay afloat. Of course, Astle surfaced at a critical juncture in the second innings and, along with a battling McMillan, ensured that the Kiwis travelled to Mohali with the scoreline 0-0.

There has been a lot of criticism about the pitches, but we have to give the Kiwis credit where it is due. At both Motera and Mohali, there was some turn and bounce for the spinners from the third day onwards, and it was up to the bowlers to make use of it. I agree that there must be diversity in pitches, and there is nothing wrong with having spinner friendly surfaces in India. However, that doesn't mean we have to prepare rank turners where the ball starts turning square from the first day.

That would cause immense harm to Indian cricket in the long run. Now that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has taken a bold step regarding changing the nature of the pitches in the country, it should not take a step backwards.

Akash Chopra has the makings of a fine opener and should be persisted with. — Pic. AFP-

I agree that the pitches for the two Tests could have been livelier. However, preparing bad wickets at home just to notch up series victories is definitely not the answer.

The fact that Darryl Tuffey was named the Man of the Match at Mohali suggests that if a paceman is willing to put in the hard work and bowls with discipline and consistency, then he would be rewarded, whatever be the condition of the pitch.

Tuffey picked up seven wickets at Mohali and did get the ball to seam both ways. With the pacey Ian Butler also showing signs of promise, New Zealand could have a very effective pace attack when Bond returns. Variety will come in the form of left-arm spin from Daniel Vettori, who bowled well in the two-Test series, without being adequately rewarded.

For the Indians, V.V.S. Laxman left none in doubt about his value to this Indian side. He is a quality player, and during the two-Test series, he showed just why he is rated so highly by his opponents.

While Laxman was solid, he also made runs in style. His hundred and the unbeaten half century at Mohali, were priceless match-saving efforts, with Laxman applying himself to the job on hand extremely well, handling a tense situation with ease.

There should not be any more doubt about his place in the Indian XI. I think it is time we give Laxman the respect and the recognition he deserves.

Akash Chopra's performances as opener were a definite plus for India from this series. India has struggled to find a stable pair of openers and the emergence of Chopra, who appears a compact batsman with a sound temperament, is a healthy development.

Chopra has the makings of a fine opener and we have to persist with this Delhi lad. His second innings half century at Mohali, on the fifth day, was a particularly creditable effort with the Indians facing defeat.

Rahul Dravid made a double hundred at Motera. However, he had a tough first Test as captain at Mohali, with New Zealand dictating terms for a major part of the match. Sourav Ganguly came up with a century in the first Test, before missing the second game following a surgery on his thigh.

Indian trumpcards at home, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, had a tough time against a bunch of determined Kiwis. It was a series where the New Zealanders, who have now made a habit of performing well abroad, tested the Indians.