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India win another series at home, a 3-0 whitewash this time. Ravichandran Ashwin wins another Man-of-the-Series award. The same script ensued and for those who of followed Indian cricket lately, this would not be a surprise. New Zealand, who till now had put up a strong fight against the Indians, meekly surrendered on Day Four of the Indore Test. It was a comprehensive 321-run win victory, India’s second best in terms of runs. The icing on the cake was the ICC Test Championship Mace they received post presentation ceremony. India put up a clinical show and Suvajit Mustafi evaluates the performances of the side and rates them in descending order. Full cricket scorecard: India vs New Zealand, 3rd Test

Ravichandran Ashwin, 9/10: Who is surprised? Ashwin pulled-off another near-perfect performance and bagged his seventh Man-of-the-Series award. He now has joined the elite league of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Wasim Akram. But the West Indian has played 60 series while the Pakistani legend 43, Ashwin has 7 trophies from 14 series. The off-spinner, who claims that he can dismiss anyone, registered 27 wickets from 3 Tests at 17.77. He now has six 10-wicket hauls to his name from 39 Tests, joining the league of Rangana Herath and Derek Underwood. For more Ashwin state, read here.

Ashwin bagged 27 wickets in the series.    AFP
Ashwin bagged 27 wickets in the series. AFP

He picked 10 wickets in Kanpur and 4 in Kolkata, where conditions assisted seamers. In Indore, he finished with 13 wickets and in process registered his best bowling figure of 7 for 59. Added to this, he scored a vital 40 in the first Test and another important 26 at Kolkata. He averaged 23.66 with the bat, low by his standards but good enough to help his side recover. No wonder he is world’s No.1 all-rounder. For India to continue their domination in Test, Ashwin will be the key as they prepare for another 10 Tests in the long home season.

Tests: 3 | Wickets: 27 | Bowling Ave: 17.77 | BB: 7-59 | Runs: 71 | HS: 40 | Ave: 23.67

 

Cheteshwar Pujara, 8.5/10: Dropped in St Lucia, debate over his strike-rate, Pujara put all speculations to rest with his remarkable consistency. Once again, he proved that in subcontinent conditions he is Team India’s best batsman. From six innings, he got 3 fifties (every time he looked set for a three-figure), one unlucky decision, one brilliant delivery from Mitchell Santner and finally a well-deserved ton.

Pujara slammed his 8th Test ton in Indore    AFP
Pujara slammed his 8th Test ton in Indore AFP

He scored two crucial fifties in Kanpur, his 87 rescued India in the first innings in Kolkata and the second half of his 101 not out at Indore was delightful. Had Ashwin not produced the impeccable numbers, Pujara stood a good chance to lay his hands on the Man of the Series Trophy.

Tests: 3 | Runs: 373 | HS: 101* | Ave: 74.60 | 100s: 1 | 50s: 3

 

Wriddhiman Saha, 8/10: The Man-of-the-Match in Kolkata Test hardly had a role at Indore. Saha displayed the confidence he gained in West Indies in this series. In Kanpur, he was unlucky to get a Trent Boult ripper first up but in his home ground, Eden Gardens, the little man made it count. He played two knocks of high quality and extreme importance to bail India out from precarious positions. He scored two fifties and remained unbeaten on both occasions. New Zealand’s stand-in captain was honest enough to admit that it was Saha, who took “the game away” from them. That was his batting.

His wicketkeeping was top notch and once again proved the fact why he is the best in country. His acrobatics against pacers and skills against spinners, on surfaces that had variable bounce or ones, which often turned minefields towards end of the Test, helped India counter many bye runs. From commentators to media pundits, Saha got the due plaudits and it was well deserved. He may not have the numbers to boast with the big gloves but those who witnessed his act, will vouch for the fact that his keeping was among the finest that the game has witnessed in recent times.

Tests: 3 | Runs: 112 | HS: 58* | Ave: 112.00 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 2 | Dismissals: 2

 

Ravindra Jadeja, 8/10: Let us place a filter. Of all bowlers, who have over 50 wickets in India, Jadeja has the best bowling average. In home conditions, Jadeja’s bowling average drops to 17.53 and his economy rate is just over 2. The Saurashtra all-rounder was once again brilliant and Ashwin benefitted from his presence at the other end.

While Ashwin claimed the wickets, it was Jadeja who maintained pressure by putting a lid on the run flow. Jadeja has 3 First-Class triple tons to his name but at the international level, he has not done anything of repute with the willow. This series saw glimpses of Jadeja living up to the hype and reputation.

In the first Test, he scored a vital run-a-ball 42 not out that helped India get to a respectable total. In the second innings, he slammed an unbeaten fifty. His first in over two years. Added to it, is his fielding and without a doubt he is the best all-round fieldsman in the current side. Jadeja’s batting will be extremely crucial in days to come. It was another stellar show from the Rajkot lad.

Tests: 3 | Wickets: 14 | Bowling Ave: 24.07 | BB: 5-73 | Runs: 129 | HS: 50* | Ave: 64.50

 

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 8/10: Unlucky Bhuvneshwar missed out on playing India’s 500th Test at his home ground in Kanpur. Despite his brilliant comeback in West Indies, the swing bowler was mysteriously left out in favour of Umesh Yadav. In conditions that would favour seam bowling, Bhuvi made a return at Kolkata and made an impact with 5 for 48. His spell turned the game in India’s favour.

Unfortunately a back injury ruled him out of the final Test and his appearance was restricted to just one Test. He also scored a vital 23 in a crucial partnership with Saha. In the long season ahead, his role with the red cherry will be extremely crucial.

Test: 1 | Wickets: 6 | Bowling Ave: 12.66 | BB: 5-48

Mohammed Shami, 7.5/10: With little more luck by his side, Shami’s numbers would have looked better. Shami was good with the new ball and got it to reverse when it was worn out. He troubled BJ Watling in particular with his deliveries that moved in late, twice dismissing him bowled and once leg before. His seam position was brilliant and a fit Shami is an asset to the Indian bowling attack.

Shami played the 2nd Test in Kolkata while his daughter was at ICU    AFP
Shami played the 2nd Test in Kolkata while his daughter was at ICU AFP

Like Bhuvi, Shami too will be crucial for India’s fortunes in the long home season. Shami bowled better than his figures suggest. He was unlucky with umpiring decisions and a few could have gone his way, especially in the final session of the series. He was also involved in a crucial partnership with Saha at Eden Gardens.

Tests: 3 | Wickets: 8 | Bowling Ave: 30.37 | BB: 3-46

 

Ajinkya Rahane, 7.5/10: He took the blows, bore the brunt of the bruises but carried on. Rahane’s batting was not full of the usual grace at Indore as Matt Henry and co. peppered him with short stuff but he hung around and responded with his highest Test score.

He was not at his usual consistent best but he played two knocks of utmost significance. His partnership with Pujara led to India’s recovery at Kolkata while his record 365-run stand with captain Virat Kohli batted New Zealand out of the Test.

He may have dropped a few catches but one of the best fielders around, he grabbed a couple of screamers at slip.

Tests: 3 | Runs: 347 | HS: 188 | Ave: 69.40 | 100s: 1 | 50s: 1 | Catches: 4

Rohit Sharma, 7.5/10: Finally the debate seems to be over. Rohit has made it count and more than him the team management must be breathing a sigh of relief. The years of investment on Rohit in Test cricket seems to have finally paid off. He was lucky to find a place in Kanpur Test. He threw it away on 35 in the first innings of the first Test but made amends with an important 68 not out in the second innings.

However, it was at his favourite Eden Gardens where he made it matter the most. Departing for 2 in the first innings, the ‘drop Rohit’ cries surfaced yet again but the stylish right-hander crafted a skillful 82 in a difficult surface in the second innings to help India to a strong position.

In the final Test he struck another unbeaten fifty. Not only Rohit’s average has taken a leap in Test cricket but also he has proved that he can be consistent in this format. His fielding at short-leg was impressive as well. The talent was thereon display and for now the critics can hide the dagger.

Tests: 3 | Runs: 238 | HS: 82 | Ave: 79.33 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 3 | Catches: 2

 

Virat Kohli, 7.5/10: As a batsman, Kohli had a poor start to the series as he kept falling to the Kiwi plans. He did not favour to his reputation with scores of 9, 18 and 9 in the first 3 innings. One of the finest batsmen in modern cricket, Kohli has set a benchmark in terms of consistency. The glimpses of the Kohli the world knows came in the second innings at Eden Gardens. On a difficult track, with Indian batting falling like ninepins, Kolhli’s counterattack forced the visitors to go defensive. His 45 weighed much more than the number.

In Indore, we saw a disciplined Kohli who stamped his authority. He became the first player to score a hundred in the series and did not stop there and notched his second double ton. He crafted 211 and his partnership with Rahane broke the Kiwis, mentally and physically. The Kohli at Indore is the Kohli we expect.

Kohli became the first Indian captain to register two double hundreds    AFP
Kohli became the first Indian captain to register two double hundreds AFP

The captain of the No.1 side made some baffling decisions but it worked in his favour but the good bit was his intent. The side benefitted with his new approach of channeled aggression and one also needs to give him a pat on the back for winning the tosses. And a passing mention has to be his fielding. He has pocketed the trophy and the mace, there are more to come.

Tests: 3 | Runs: 309 | HS: 211 | Ave: 51.50 | 100s: 1 | 50s: 0 | Catches: 3

 

Gautam Gambhir, 7/10: A lot of drama later, Gambhir finally made his national comeback in whites after more than two years. Despite his prolific scoring in Duleep Trophy, he was overlooked by the selectors for this series. KL Rahul got injured after first Test and Gambhir was drafted in. Shikhar Dhawan’s injury in Kolkata meant the gates had opened up for the southpaw, who was once India’s finest.

Gambhir is a star and draws attention. The hype around the Indore Test was also Gambhir’s return. A changed stance, different approach but the grit remains same. He pulled Henry’s bouncers for back-to-back sixes in the fourth over of the Test. He was batting well before Boult trapping him plumb for 29.

Despite a sore shoulder that led him to leave the field ‘retired hurt’ on Day Three, Gambhir came out to bat the next day. With Pujara struggling at one end, the need of the hour was quick runs and Gambhir responded with a 56-ball 50. It was an exhibition of quality stroke-play. This is a comeback, Indian cricket will remember for long. He has done enough to merit a place in the squad for the England series.

Making a comeback, Gambhir scored an unselfish fifty    AFP
Making a comeback, Gambhir scored an unselfish fifty AFP

Test: 1 | Runs: 79 | HS: 50 | Ave: 38.50 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 1 | SR: 72.47

Murali Vijay, 6/10: Vijay started well with 65 and 76 at Kanpur. In Kolkata he fell to Henry’s brilliance as the Kiwi pacer broke the monk’s patience with his disciplined line on and outside off-stump. He managed 9 and 7. In Indore he was unlucky on both occasions but has himself to be blamed. He was batting well in the first innings before a freakish catch at short-leg ended his stay at 10. He had a chance to make amends in the final innings but was run out in a moment of madness or let us call it laziness.

Vijay is important to India’s success as he has the right temperament and is versatile with his game. We do not know if he will start against England or not but for now let us not read too much into his numbers. He was one of the heroes of the Kanpur Test.

Tests: 3 | Runs: 186 | HS: 76 | Ave: 31.00 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 2

 

KL Rahul, 5.5/10: Unfortunate for the youngster that an injury forced him out of the series after the first Test. Rahul is India’s most improved batsman and was in terrific form. In Kanpur, in the both the innings he got off to brisk starts but squandered the opportunity to make them count. In a serious competition for slots Rahul needed to make it count. It will be unfair on the youngster if he does not make it to the starting XI of India’s next Test but with Gambhir in form, selectors will be in for a happy dilemma.

Tests: 1 | Runs: 70 | HS: 38 | Ave: 35.00 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 0 | SR: 78.65

Umesh Yadav, 4.5/10: The tearaway pacer was lucky to play both the Tests that he did. In the first one, he was chosen ahead of Bhuvi and at Indore he replaced the UP seamer. Umesh can be erratic. He was at times but the numbers do not tell you all. He looked threatening in spells and in the first Test when Martin Guptill was looking threatening, he dismissed him with a peach. One that came in sharply and beat Guptill with pace. In the second innings of the Indore Test, he picked the all important wicket of Tom Latham.

However with his experience, Umesh needs to be more disciplined. If Bhuvi and Ishant Sharma are fit, it is unlikely Umesh will be preferred to partner the red cherry with Shami.

Tests: 2 | Wickets: 2 | Bowling Ave: 62.00 | BB: 1-13

Shikhar Dhawan, 3/10: Failure in 1 Test in conditions difficult for batting does not warrant enough criticism so I am being fair and giving him 3. An injury to Rahul resulted in Dhawan playing in the XI. The team management trusted him with a slot in playing XI ahead of Gambhir but he disappointed, once again.

In testing conditions in Kolkata, Dhawan had a chance to prove his mettle but he chose to play an overambitious cut to a Henry delivery that did not offer enough room. The result: he dragged it back to the stumps.

In the second innings, he survived two blows on his thumb from his Sunrisers Hyderabad teammate Boult, struck a few glorious boundaries before the latter dismissed him for 17. Another disappointing Test for him and rubbing salt to the wounds, scans revealed that the blows caused him a minor fracture and thus ruled him out of the final Test and the ODI side too.

Tests: 1 | Runs: 18 | HS: 17 | Ave: 9.00 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 0

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sportsmarketer , strategist, entrepreneur, philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)