Despite his team being overwhelmingly crushed by New Zealand during the tour, India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni put up a brave front, saying it was “quite a good performance” by his team in the Test matches.
It turned out to be a disastrous tour for India as they remained winless, losing the ODI series 0-4 and the Test series 0-1. The visitors ended the ignominious tour of New Zealand by drawing the second and final Test.
“Overall, quite a good performance. We have been improving right from South Africa. We have shown that we are a side that’s very talented,” said Dhoni at the post match presentation ceremony.
“We did well in the series, in this Test because we fought back pretty well ourselves. We bowled the right areas, which I think is very important on the flat wickets,” he added.
Having bundled out the Black Caps for 192 in the first innings and taken a 246-run lead, India looked like winning the second Test, as they reduced New Zealand to 94 for five in their second innings.
But Brendon McCullum (302) staged a remarkable fightback and together with BJ Watling shared a world record partnership of 352 runs for the sixth wicket to take the hosts to safety.
“In the first Test our second innings was brilliant. And then we came here won the toss and bowled really well in the first innings. In the second innings also we got a good start till Brendon and Watling came in. I don’t think it was bad bowling but it is just that they kept the good deliveries out,” the Indian skipper explained.
“Appreciate what Brendon and Watling did, soak up the pressure when we were bowling well and score freely once the bowlers tired,” he said.
Despite the bowlers failing to wrap up the innings after reducing the New Zealanders to 94 for five, Dhoni chose not to be too critical.
“We had to field for two and a half days and I must appreciate the way the bowlers took the challenge. Even when the third new ball was taken, they ran in hard and looked for wickets. They were willing to go on. I think they did whatever they could. At the end of the day we will accept the result.
“We cannot always put pressure on our batsmen and bowlers, saying that they did badly. It was fantastic to see how our bowlers bowled, especially the fact that when they took the second and the third new ball, they put in a lot of effort,” he insisted.
Dhoni praised his counterpart McCullum for his triple-hundred, saying that his side tried everything to get him out but couldn’t succeed.
“We bowled for two and a half days. We tried everything — all fielding positions, three new balls — and after that you have to appreciate that they batted well. We had to break that partnership (between McCullum and Watling) to get to the lower order batsmen.
“When you bowl to a set of batsmen for two days, you try everything from catching in slips to catching cover to deep square leg to deep point to bowling on pads to bowling outside off. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work,” said Dhoni.
“They kept on playing, and playing 500-odd deliveries itself is very tough, forget the amount of runs scored. It was one of the good innings we saw,” he said.
Asked if it was a lack of killer instinct on the Indians’ part to not able to seal the match then, Dhoni replied: “We were trying. It is very difficult to pinpoint one thing. To maintain pressure, it becomes very difficult with a three fast bowlers and one spinner combination. That was one area where our fast bowlers did really well. They were able to hit consistent line and length throughout.
“We bowled close to 200-odd overs and still they were able to hit the same spot with good intensity, which itself means a lot.”
India have now lost back-to-back overseas tours, thereby lengthening their poor performances on foreign soil.
“The ODIs loss was disappointing to some extent. In South Africa we didn’t get much time to prepare. Here we didn’t capitalise on good starts or didn’t have good partnerships in the middle. We saw a glimpse of that in Test matches too.
“The Test series, we knew would be slightly tough here because there are not many players who have played more than five, six or seven Tests, which means it is always a good exposure for all of them,” he said.
“In the first Test we bowled well in the second innings to come back into the game. Then when we were batting we had a good partnership going but we lost wickets and that put pressure back on us. That’s an area where we need to improve.
“Overall, our performances have been good. The wickets in both Test matches turned out to be on the flatter side, especially this one. It kept getting better and better for batting. We bowled well. If we compare to South Africa, there are a lot of positives to take along from this series,” Dhoni said.
Trailing by 246 runs, the Black Caps were struggling in their second innings as well before McCullum and Watling came to the hosts’ rescue.
“I don’t look too much ahead. What was important was that one wicket at a time, said Dhoni, talking about that situation when the hosts looked set for defeat.
“Once New Zealand had a lead of over 300, I told my team from this point on there is only one winner in this game. If somebody will win this Test, it will be New Zealand, if we don’t bat well. A day earlier I told my team, as of now where we stand, there is only one winner, and that is the Indian team, if we bowl well, if we get couple of wickets then we can definitely win this Test.
“Being in the current scenario more often really helps you assess the real condition as to what it is and where you need to be,” the skipper pointed out.
In the long run it means a hard jog for India as they will tour England and Australia later this year. But there would be some respite as they will play in the Asia Cup and World T20 in Bangladesh, followed by the Indian Premier League.
“The IPL is actually a relief for us because that is when our season ends and we get a month’s break after playing all these tournaments. But even then it is important to remember what we have learnt from these two tours in South Africa and New Zealand, and gain from this exposure. England and Australia will be big tours for us,” Dhoni said.
The Indian captain said he was also looking forward to coming back to New Zealand for the World Cup next year, which will be jointly hosted by Australia.
“It’s a fantastic country, the atmosphere was very good. Wickets in the ODIs were on the flatter side, good bounce, small outfield, so it’s entertaining for the fans. They\ appreciate good cricket, enjoy the opposition’s success too.
Overall, a fantastic venue to play cricket and enjoy cricket. A bit tough at time but that’s what international cricket is all about.
“I always loved New Zealand and we are looking forward to coming here next year for the World Cup,” Dhoni signed off.