It was a morning of goodbyes at the team hotel as Indias one-day specialists packed their bags and headed home. The Saturday night loss didnt contribute too much to the memories of their 26-day stay here,and they carried back tales of dominating a team that had once intimidated all visiting sides.
Since it is likely that at least two batsmen from the group that boarded the flight on Sunday Suresh Raina (22) and Rohit Sharma (21) could be Team India regulars in the coming days,future generations of Indian batsmen may not travel to New Zealand with a heavy burden on their shoulders.
Until recently,due to the banana-skin tour of 2003 and four decades without any significant milestone,New Zealand-bound Indian travellers carried the trauma passed on to them by history. Tales about how the bat sways in your hands in windy Wellington,about the ball having a mind of its own in Hamilton,and about pitches seamlessly merging into the green outfield,were relived as the countdown to the ODI teams departure started. But when the next tour of New Zealand approaches,the flashbacks are likely to have a different hue.
It remains to be seen if India can replicate their one-day form in the Tests,but the players for whom the tour ended on Sunday leave one of world crickets toughest outposts as winners. Of the six at the departure terminal at the Auckland airport,only Raina and Yusuf Pathan played in all matches,but the confidence of the 3-1 verdict has rubbed off on everyone in the team.
The top scorer in the last one-dayer,Rohit Sharma,said that things hadnt been as tough as he had expected. I wasnt quite in the flow in the last game since I had just batted in one Twenty20 match before,but I could still stick around even with wickets falling at the other end. Being here has been an educating experience for me, he said.
Sharma added that the big victory margins in the series had changed his perception about New Zealand. Since many of the youngsters in the team hadnt come to New Zealand before,there was a fear of the unknown. But the conditions this time werent as tough as wed heard they would be. Giving an example of how familiarity breeds confidence,Sharma added that his trips to Australia with the A side had prepared him for his visit with the national team. If one gets an idea of what lies ahead,it becomes easier, Sharma said.
Left-hander Raina said he was going back home a wiser batsman because the adjustments he made in New Zealand had worked perfectly. He explained: The body positioning while batting is very important. If your head drops or if you close your eyes,shot-making becomes difficult. It is very important to maintain balance for the bowlers. If you are bowling at 140 kmph with the wind,it can seem like 150,but if you are bowling against the wind,it could be like 120 or 125 kmph.
In the days to come,these young players might end up as the senior members of the Indian side and will pass on their New Zealand experience to newcomers. With results to back their words,their advice will have more meaning.
All things considered,this wasnt just another one-day series win for captain MS Dhonis Team India but the conquering of an important frontier.