Wellington: Cheteshwar Pujara, talking to reporters after the third day’s play here, had said: “Our fielding has been fantastic, not only on this tour but also in South Africa. You are bound to drop some but it is not good to pinpoint a couple of dropped catches or missed chances.” Perhaps, Pujara, like most Indian cricketers and fans, was so sure of an Indian win at that moment that he chose not to regret the fielding goof-ups, including Brendon McCullum being dropped twice — by Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma.
On Monday, after being on leather hunt for two days, Shikhar Dhawan scrambled to put things in perspective.
“On a third day wicket, our bowlers did a good job by getting half of their team out. Unfortunately, we dropped McCullum and paid a heavy price for that,” he admitted.
McCullum, with his eyes set on becoming the first Kiwi to score a triple century, was involved in a world record sixth-wicket partnership of 352 runs with BJ Watling.
Martin Crowe’s 299 against Sri Lanka, the highest innings by a New Zealander in Test cricket, also came at the usually bowler-friendly Basin Reserve, 23 years ago.
Having made three double tons in his Test career now - all of them against India — the Kiwi skipper knows he’s in with a chance to re-write the history books on the final day of the final Test of the series.
But, the team’s interest comes first for the 32-year-old.
“We have worked really hard to get back into this contest so that is one decision we have to look at, whether we try and push on for a Test win or consolidate the lead that we have got knowing how far out of the game we were,” he said.
The Indian team may have thought that it was in full control of the situation, only to realise later that their much-awaited first victory of the tour was just a mirage.
“The first two days, we dominated the match. Today, it was a totally different day and a long one for all of us. We came with the mindset that we will get them out and bat and chase down whatever runs are needed. But, it didn’t go our way. We have to take it in our stride and see what happens tomorrow,” said Dhawan.
So, were Indians guilty of being too defensive in their approach when McCullum and Watling were amassing runs at will? “No, not really,” felt Dhawan.
“Even when McCullum was batting on a big score, attacking fielders were there. At the end of the day, there was a bit of a defensive field. But we needed to save runs too.” From 94/5 to 571/6 and still batting, this has certainly been the greatest-ever fightbacks in New Zealand’s Test history while Indians will just be in a hurry to go back home after the end of a disastrous tour.
“One more day left tomorrow, we will try our best to win here,” Dhawan said. “Even if we lost (the series), there is a lot to learn from it. Today they turned the tables on us — that is part and parcel of the game and that is how we learn.”