The Indian team should be more hailed than criticised for their 40-run loss in the opening Test against New Zealand at Auckland, never mind if this is India’s 10th overseas loss in 11 Tests.
A win would have been nothing short of historic because no visiting side has scored 407 to win a Test on New Zealand soil. That India got close is manifestation of not only the talent in the pack, but also their capabilities to fight in adversity. No admiration can be too high for Shikhar Dhawan, who came out of a bad patch through some aggressive batting. Hitting one’s way out of trouble is fraught with danger and ridicule from television commentators and critics.
But Dhawan did it his way and became India’s first opener to score an overseas century in the second innings of a Test since Sunil Gavaskar’s epic 221 against England at the Oval in 1979. Like Gavaskar’s effort, Dhawan gave India hope to win the Test. The second new ball proved costly for the Indians who lost Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma in quick succession.
Rahane had every reason to feel duped when umpire Steve Davis was not alert enough to spot his inside edge before giving in to New Zealand pacer Trent Boult’s appeal for leg before wicket. Unfortunate, but then India have resisted the Decision Review System even before its flaws came to the fore in the 2013 Ashes series in England.
As much as Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja can be credited for infusing new hope in the run chase, it would be fair to criticise Jadeja for the expansive shot he played to get out. Players like Jadeja have earned wholesome support from the skipper and it’s time he infuses that element of responsibility in his batting.
Overall, India did splendidly to give the hosts a scare. Sure, they could have been fielded and caught better, but the manner in which they conducted themselves during the last two days of the four-day Test would stand them in good stead for the February 14-18 second and final Test at Wellington where the pace trio of Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami can be expected to thrive. Headline writers love the ‘Kiwis have claws’ line. Now, India have shown the New Zealanders their true claws.