India Save the Blushes but Kiwis May Rue Their Slow Progress

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Sunil Gavaskar, Professional Management Group

Published — Tuesday 21 October 2003

Last Update 21 October 2003 3:00 am

BOMBAY, 21 October 2003 — India were saved the blushes by a stubborn fourth wicket stand between newcomer Akash Chopra and first innings centurion V. V. S. Laxman. In hindsight New Zealand may well rue their slow progress on the second day when they failed to capitalize on the double century opening stand that Richardson & Vincent had put up.

Still there is no question that they take the honors in this Test series for it is never easy to get away without a loss in India. All the preparation that they undertook paid off and the spirited performance in both Tests shows that there is much to learn from the visitors for India. Unfortunately for the hosts with a Triangular series coming up they are going to be in no position to prepare for the Australian tour.

Their batsmen in particular will have to make the adjustment from getting onto the front foot on the slow Indian pitches with the restriction in bouncers in place for limited over internationals to moving onto the backfoot for the Australian pitches which will have more bounce than the Indian flat tracks. Moreover the inability of the bowlers to make an impression on the Kiwis on pitches, which offered turn, doesn’t augur too well for the Australian pitches where apart from Sydney there will be hardly any turn at all. V. V. S Laxman with his display in both Tests has shown that on Indian pitches he is far more consistent than other batsmen. Dravid looked a bit weighed down by the captaincy and even his ultra reliable catching was not there in the Test. Tendulkar uncharacteristically scratched around in the first innings and hardly ever went down the pitch to the spinners which allowed them to keep attacking fields for him even when he was past fifty. There is a certain joie de vivre when he is out on the field, which has been pretty conspicuous by its absence in this series. The famous Tendulkar smile whether he is batting or fielding was rarely seen and hopefully it will be back soon for that charges his whole body language and approach to the game.

For New Zealand Tuffey was the pick of the bowlers and it was his spell the fifth morning that gave New Zealand a sniff of victory. It took him a Test to realize that bowling the length he bowls in New Zealand will not get him wickets and he needs to bowl a lot further up in India. The moment he did that he was going past the bat far more often than in the first Test and his superb spell in the second innings must have caused a bit of jitters in the Indian dressing room.

Chopra once again showed the correct approach and his application to his task was exemplary. He is just the kind of batsman who brings calm to the dressing room with his simple unhurried methods and he should now use the period before going to Australia trying to practice against the short pitched stuff for there will be a fair share of that on those bouncy pitches. India needs to sit down and do an honest appraisal of their performances, the plusses and the minuses, the combinations they picked before pointing fingers at anybody for there is that classic saying that when one points a finger there are three fingers pointing back at one.

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