It has been an all too familiar pattern for the Indian cricket team and its fans in Test matches played abroad in recent years.
India play some good cricket, put themselves in a commanding position, look set to win the Test, only to be defied by the opposition every single time.
That is exactly what happened at Wellington in the second Test match between New Zealand and India. Brendon McCullum scored a triple hundred to earn a draw for New Zealand even as India squandered multiple chances to grab a series leveling win.
At one stage, India had New Zealand reeling with the hosts needing 152 runs to make India bat again with just 5 wickets in hand. But a combination of dropped chances, unimaginative captaincy and lacklustre bowling saw New Zealand post a mammoth second innings score to draw the game.
India captain M.S Dhoni, however, refused to blame his bowlers or the other members of the team insisting that the team had done everything in their power to eke out a win.
“We bowled for two-and-a-half days. We tried our best in all fielding positions,” Dhoni said. “Right from catching slips to catching covers to deep square leg to deep point and bowling on the pads to bowling outside off. We tried three new balls to get them out. At times it works, at times it does not work. After that, you have to appreciate that at times, the opposition can also bat well. We don’t always have to put pressure on our bowlers and batters saying we batted badly or we bowled badly.
“I think as a cricket fan, he (McCullum) batted really well. And he was given good company by Watling and they kept playing. They played a lot of deliveries. Playing close to 500-odd deliveries is itself very tough, forget the amount of runs he has scored. I think it was one of the good innings we were able to see.”
McCullum and wicketkeeper Ben Watling had a partnership which lasted 123 overs and the duo played 926 deliveries between them. India bowled 210 overs in New Zealand’s second innings at Wellington to get 8 wickets. Dhoni though was pleased with the intensity that his bowlers had shown throughout the Test.
“I think it was fantastic to see the way our bowlers bowled. Specially the fact that when they took the second and third new ball, still they were willing to put in a lot of effort. You don’t get to see sides playing with three fast bowlers and one spinner and putting the kind of effort that our side did. Overall, we will accept that we were not able to get two batsmen out. They batted really well, we will give credit to them but at the same time, what really needs to be appreciated is the will and the way our fast bowlers tried to get the opposition out on a really flat wicket.
As I said, to maintain pressure with 3-1 combination becomes difficult. That was one area where our fast bowlers did really well. They were able to hit consistent line and length throughout. We bowled close to 200-odd overs and still they were able to hit the same spot with good intensity which itself means a lot.”
When asked to put a finger on what exactly was not going in India’s favour, Dhoni stated that it was not such a straightforward issue. Dhoni also expressed hope that if the team can keep getting themselves into strong positions, they would eventually get over the line in the future.
“We are trying. It is not like making food where you say, okay, salt is missing, that is why it is not good. Where we are lacking, that is a difficult one to answer. In the last two series, we have not been able to capitalise when we were in similar situation. I think it is good we were in a situation like that and slowly we will be able to capitalise also,” Dhoni said.