‘Attitude’ is the correct word. Ever since India played their first over in NZ 2009, they did take a aggressive bang (Hayden-Gilchrist) approach, and didn’t look back, even after losing the T20s 0-2. And it paid dividends. They convincingly won the ODI series, and the attitude forever put pressure on the NZ bowlers. It then started reaping bonus – on the first day of last test, when the team scored 376 – their highest total on a single test match day.
For my generation, it took 4 trips to NZ – 1990, 1998, 2002, 2009 (each trip meant waking at wee hours of morning) to finally see a series victory. Sourav Ganguly in Indian news channel recently told that this is the same team as the 2002 one. He surely has missed the point. The difference between this team and other Indian teams has been their ability to win key moments. Whether it was extracting maximum of the conditions in the decisive opening session of first test, the tough grinding 4th and 5th days of 2nd test or the first day of the final test.
And all such moments had come in 1998 and in 2002 too, but were too easily surrendered by the team. In the first test in 1998, Azhars classy century was 55% of the team total – which meant everyone else flopped. NZ took a decent lead, but Sachin single handedly wiped it all over and presented the bowlers with a sizeable target to defend. The much celebrated bowling attack of Srinath, Prasad, Kumble came second best and could never complement Sachin’s fight back.
In 2002, after being 0-1 down, India folded up for 99. The bowlers struck this time to gain a shock 3 run first innings lead. The pitch had evened out by then and India batted again on better conditions and had a chance to seal off with a good 2nd innings score. The batsmen flopped, the bowlers tried, but at the end both came second best.
There is lot of talk, articles on how inexperienced this NZ attack is. So forced is this all coming that one gets the feeling that the press wants Indian fans to believe it this way. So I looked at the actual tests played and it’s a surprise that the 4 NZ bowlers have played MORE test matches than our 4 bowlers. If I add 5th bowler, in NZ case that would be Kyle Mills, then the gap further increases.
I have no doubt that had the 1998 or 2002 teams played this series they would have at best drawn the series, with some single handed performances.
Why I say the teams are different:
– The openers. And it’s a massive difference between Sehwag-Bangar and Sehwag-Gambhir, the latter don’t just score in boundaries, they run superbly between wickets, step out to bowlers – everything is done to unsettle a bowler, and it pays
– Presence of one opener or Yuvraj or Dhoni at one end ensures the aging middle order take more singles than what they used to amongst each other. Strike rotation is quiet high to any opposition’s liking
– The pace attack – between Zak and Ish are world class. Since India’s first day at cricket field ie 1932 till as late as 2002, the only thing we used to hear consistently was that our attack was incapable of taking 20 wickets in any surface apart from home spin friendly wickets. This no more is the case, and that’s a big compliment, considering that India’s best bowler ever has recently retired.
– The fielding is much better
– We have a 7th batsmen in Dhoni who is head and shoulders above any wicketkeeper batsman we ever had.
– Above all, a cool collected captain. With and without MSD leading, you can almost feel two separate teams playing on the field. The past 6 test matches without MSD leading reads (2 losses to SL, 1 win vs SL where Sehwag scored 200 in a team total 320, 3 draws vs Aus & NZ – where the opposition dominated in each match)