Metres away from the ropes at Seddon Park, the World Cup trophy stood. To build awareness among the fans, the 2015 organisers had kept the golden cup on display for spectators to hold, lift and get snapped with. Scores queued up, with their backs to the action on the field.
On Tuesday, apart from those in the stands and embankments, there were eleven more ‘spectators’ within the boundaries — the Indian players. They too might’ve done well to have their pictures clicked with the silverware. For, if they are to play in Australia-New Zealand a year down the line like they did on Tuesday, or for that matter like they have in the entire series, the trophy is unlikely to remain with them when the quadrennial finishes on March 29, 2015.
In these parts, playing under these conditions, there will be more worthy contestants than what the reigning champions have so far projected themselves to be. New Zealand, who thrashed India by 7 wickets to take a series-winning 3-0 lead, are likely to be one of them.
Up against an imposing total on a slowish, turning track, the hosts applied themselves in a manner many Indian batsmen did not. Ross Taylor made an unbeaten 112 runs, his ninth ODI century, while Kane Williamson scored his fourth successive half century as the duo first saw off the spin threat before picking off the erratic Indian pacers to put New Zealand in a commanding position.
Later, Brendon McCullum joined Taylor and the pair knocked off 92 runs in 13.5 overs to see both the target of 279 and the team through.
To be fair to the visitors, they tried a few things. Stuart Binny got the India cap after Suresh Raina was left out, while Shikhar Dhawan made way for Ambati Rayudu. Still, surprising was Dhoni’s decision to bat first — something that hadn’t happened outside the subcontinent in the last three years.
Down to 10 men?
Well-intentioned as they were, the changes didn’t quite work. They backfired. Binny wasn’t required to bat, but got only one over to bowl and conceded eight runs in that. His role was so limited, India might as well have played with 10 players. Rayudu, who made a promising 37 before his soft-dismissal, actually got to bowl more — though certainly not better — than the Karnataka all-rounder. Rayudu gave away 23 runs in three overs.
However, the downfall began with Virat Kohli. In Dhawan’s absence, Kohli opened the innings. India’ s trump card was dismissed cheaply as he tried to muscle his way out of the choke-hold that Kyle Mills and Tim Southee applied on the batsmen early on. Kohli was out top-edging continued…