Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Indians in Kiwiland: Job well done !!!

So the Men in Blue are back from Kiwiland (and already in South Africa for the second edition of what is arguably cricket's biggest party today !!). And Dhoni and his boys can look back at the 45 odd days in New Zealand with some satisfaction. While much was made of the fact that it was India's first series win there in 41 years, it should be remembered that the Indians were expected to win the series anyways. So to that extent, 1-0 in the end was not a suprising result by any means.
However, that is not to take away from the neat manner in which the Indians went about their job, particularly in the Test matches. And in doing so, they have taken yet another significant step in their quest of becoming an all-round side. And for the Indians, the story of the series was, of course, Gautam Gambhir. From being just one of the good young players in the side, he became an integral member of the Test squad during the course of his twin hundreds. And he is possibly India's best player over all the three forms of the game combined. A certainty in the XI in any format. Most importantly, his match-saving effort at Napier showed his temperament in the longest form of the game, prompting Sehwag to rate him as the best Indian opener since Gavaskar. Given the musical chairs we used to play with the openers during the 90s (remember Vikram Rathour, SS Das, Sadagopan Ramesh, Devang Gandhi ??), Sehwag's assessment has probably more meat to it. Another important factor was Harbhajan's good showing in the Tests. In his first overseas tour as the premier spinner, he performed creditably, not just throttling the runs but also picking crucial wickets (am sure he would have been delighted to see the pitches that were on offer !!). With Zaheer also close to his best and Ishant being steady, the bowling attack served India pretty well. The third seamer was, of course, the weak link. Munaf Patel emerged with hardly anything to his credit and you can be sure that the likes of RP Singh, Sreesanth, Balaji et al will be breathing down his neck. An even bigger dissapointment was Yuvraj Singh. Here he was, given three tests on batsmen-friendly conditions overseas to cement his place in the middle-order, and he managed to blow it up. Like Munaf, his performance (or lack of it) might have escaped notice because of the splendid efforts of his senior batsmen, but there is no mistaking the fact that the middle-order cupboard after the Dravid and Sachin era looks a little barren. It is time for the next wave of great Indian batsmen to stand up !!!.. But will we find them ????.
All in all, a more than creditable showing against a side that was competent at best and on pitches that simply did not resemble the traditional New Zealand pitches. But a series win is a series win, and the Indians will take it. Later this year, they will tour South Africa is what would definitely be their biggest challenge, but till then, the Indian fan can sit assured that his team is poised to take on the best in the world, anywhere in the world !!!