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After the one-Day International series win, there was no doubt that New Zealand were in a better position to challenge India. But the performance of New Zealand against India in Tests exceeded expectations. Abhijit Banare looks at the positives from the series and what it means to New Zealand cricket.
In November 2012, New Zealand had finally managed to break free and register their first Test win in Sri Lanka since 1998 and also broke the jinx after a series of defeats preceding it. Then came the famous drawn series with England in March 2013. Until then, New Zealand’s performance was more like rubbing the matchstick off a damp matchbox. It produced sparks of brilliance but seldom it worked together as a team. They needed to show consistency to convince that they were a good enough side. And the loss to Bangladesh in the One-Day Internationals (ODIs) followed by a drawn Test series further dented their chances.
It finally took a solid performance against a top-ranked side like India to instill a sense of confidence within the New Zealand cricket team that they can be dark-horses. The 1-0 Test series win goes a long way in setting a benchmark for youngsters. After a turbulent shift in captaincy, Ross Taylor has maneuvered through the challenges to emerge as a backbone of the batting across formats. Taylor played little role in the Tests against India, but his performance against West Indies should not be forgotten.
More than the number of runs, the technique with which Kane Williamson has scored his runs has already kept the photographers busy and the purists feeling reassured about traditional shots. Brendon McCullum has already turned into a superhero for the country with his marathon effort and has given New Zealand a new reason to cheer about. BJ Watling has now played a career-defining innings. The pacers have been exceptional right through , even in defeats in previous matches. Tim Southee and Trent Boult may not have the screaming pace and a bouncer to literally knock off batsmen but their success together can’t be denied and Neil Wagner has been brilliant too.
Greatest Test wins often involve a number of heroic efforts than just one outstanding performance. The 5-0 Ashes win for Australia involved more than what Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin did. Similarly, McCullum was just the face of a famous Test series win, as there were others too who made their mark in the series.
In fact, McCullum has had a love-hate relation with cricket fans but the kind of performance he came up with against India has earned him great respect. The standing ovation which lasted for over three minutes showed what McCullum had done for the country. And his knock means a lot more than a record-breaking effort. When we consider the situation under which he came into bat, the pain he went through and the leadership skills he has shown without grabbing the limelight with his words or extraordinary celebrations, McCullum has set the path for others.
Under McCullum and Taylor, many more cricketing heroes are coming through the ranks like Williamson, Boult and not to forget a new set of all-rounders in Corey Anderson and James Neesham. As more victories come by, cricket in New Zealand is only going to get better and better. With the kind of form they are in, all eyes will be on their ICC World T20 2014 campaign and a victory there would take New Zealand cricket to its crescendo. Having watched them in the ODIs, most us know that it’s not at all a fancy dream.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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