At home: On India's series win over New Zealand

India’s domineering cricketing aura, especially in its backyard, was further reiterated at the conclusion of the Test series involving New Zealand at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium on Monday. The emphatic 372-run triumph in the second Test helped Virat Kohli’s men clinch the series at 1-0. This climax emerged after New Zealand mounted a stirring resistance in the opening drawn fixture at Kanpur when Ajinkya Rahane led India in Kohli’s absence. The Indian template at home — runs on the board and wily spinners on the mark — was in vogue and there was nothing much the Black Caps could do, especially after regular skipper Kane Williamson missed the final Test with an injury. The latest victorious outing in the longest format was India’s 14th consecutive Test series win at home since 2012 December when the visiting England squad ambushed the host riding on Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. Since that stumble, India at home has been invincible. Batters obviously feeling at home, seamers adept at swing — both conventional and reverse — and spinners headlined by a remarkable R. Ashwin, have all contributed in nursing India’s blinding halo in a familiar environment. Perhaps it was prescient of former Australian skipper Steve Waugh to refer to India as the Final Frontier two decades ago. And as the last fortnight revealed, the fortress remains intact.

The sparkling performance at Mumbai and the earlier 3-0 sweep in the Twenty20 Internationals against the same rival, also helped new coach Rahul Dravid step in on a winning note. But as Dravid pointed out, New Zealand competed hard at varying points, especially in Kanpur. Even if the unit got overwhelmed in the subsequent clash, left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel’s Perfect Ten in the first innings, following in the footsteps of Jim Laker and Anil Kumble, was a splendid feat. The Mumbai-born New Zealand-immigrant’s excellence reflected the Indian diaspora’s increasing sporting clout across shores. This was the return of the prodigal, but with a twist. And as the pandemic throws up variants while India looks ahead at the imminent tour of South Africa, it is not essentially a perfect slate. A series may have been won despite the absence of Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah, and the excellence of Ashwin, Shreyas Iyer, Mayank Agarwal and Axar Patel to name a few, augurs well. Yet, the poor yields from Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and even Kohli by his exalted standards, are a cause for worry. Having won his bouts against poor form during a storied career, Dravid understands the challenges that his core group of batters are grappling with. A turnaround is needed as a crucial overseas tour beckons.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2022 3:50:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/at-home-on-indias-series-win-over-new-zealand/article37889448.ece

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