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New zeal... and India's young brigade delivers

Last updated on: September 4, 2012 16:26 IST

New zeal... and India's young brigade delivers

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Haresh Pandya

The 2-0 series win over New Zealand, says Haresh Pandya, was built around remarkable performances and handsome contributions from Team India's youngsters.

Though not entirely unexpected, the convincing 2-0 win in the two-Test series against New Zealand should be considered a triumph of India's new generation of bright, exciting young cricketers.

Whether you look at the batting, bowling or fielding, it was the youngsters who stood out with their remarkable performances and handsome contributions, leaving their more celebrated senior colleagues far behind.

- Is Tendulkar on the decline?

Carping critics might argue that this was not a strong New Zealand side. But, then, Team India, too, had many young and inexperienced players in its ranks.

And those few seniors, particularly Sachin Tendulkar, hardly did anything spectacular in the two Tests.

The fact is that all the talk about the Kiwis being a weaker bunch was laid to rest in the crucial second Test in Bangalore by their dynamic batsman and captain Ross Taylor, who played the Indian bowlers with aplomb while essaying a scintillating century (113), and highly promising fast bowler Timothy Southee, who really shook our famed batting line-up in the first innings with dream figures of 7 for 64. (Southee did not play in the first Test.)


Photographs: REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

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It is keeping these factors in mind that one should judge all those young Indians who truly shone against New Zealand. It is easy to belittle or devalue their performances with illogical, silly arguments.

Even for the best and the most seasoned of players it is never a child's play to perform in a Test match regardless of the strength or quality of the other team.

Just ask Tendulkar, who cut a sorry figure in the series, and he will tell you what Test match pressure is all about.

As usual in recent times, Virat Kohli led the charge of the young brigade. He was simply at his best in Bangalore. His splendid, responsible 103 rescued the Indian first innings, which Southee threatened to blow away.

But it was his 51 not out in the second innings, and his unfinished 96-run partnership with M S Dhoni at a vital juncture, when India were chasing and in danger of allowing the Kiwis to come from behind, that was even more important.

The cool and composed Kohli ensured that India reached home without further hiccups and with five wickets in hand.

He displayed admirable mental toughness and strength of character in both the innings. Kohli, who is progressing by leaps and bounds, is just unstoppable at the moment and seems to be in a hurry. And to think his best is yet to come...


Photographs: REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

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Cheteshwar Pujara may have failed in the first innings but, just like Kohli, scored an invaluable 48 after the loss of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir in quick succession.

He laid a solid foundation for the eventual famous win, reminding many of his match-winning 72 on Test debut against Australia, when India were chasing a target, at the very venue in October 2010. Both Pujara (159) and Kohli (58) had stabilised the Indian innings at Hyderabad in the first Test, too, after the loss of Gambhir, Sehwag and Tendulkar at the score of 125.

If it was the batting of Kohli and Pujara, it was the bowling of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha that did the Kiwis in at Hyderabad and Bangalore. On a pitch, tailor-made for him, Ashwin made the Kiwis hop and dance in both the innings in Hyderabad, taking 6 for 31 and 6 for 54 respectively.

Ojha, who proved an ideal foil for Ashwin and claimed 3 for 44 in the first essay, opened India's bowling in the second, again bagging 3 for 48 as Kiwis lost by an innings and 115 runs after following on.


Photographs: REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

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Dhoni kept his faith in Ojha and again opened India's bowling with this talented young man when New Zealand chose to bat first in Bangalore after winning the toss.

His 5 for 99 included four frontline batsmen, including centurion Taylor. Surprisingly, Ashwin managed to take a solitary wicket even after bowling 24 overs.

But the tall offie from Chennai made up for that with a rich haul of 5 for 69 in New Zealand's second innings, which turned the Test India's way.

Apart from Kohli, Pujara, Ashwin and Ojha, the two other young players, Suresh Raina and Umesh Yadav, had only a mixed bag. Raina, the world's best finisher in both one-day and Twenty20 cricket, must rue the opportunities he missed to cement his place in the Test side.

He scored just three in India's only innings in Hyderabad. Though he made an attractive 55 in the first innings in Bangalore, he should have converted it into a bigger knock.

He was expected to contribute some useful runs in India's chase after the fall of Pujara as the fourth wicket, but he did not make even a single.

On such spin-friendly tracks, where even the experienced Zaheer Khan was struggling for wickets, Yadav was unlikely to reap a rich harvest. Nor was he going to get longer spells. But he is undoubtedly capable

of taking more wickets (on more positive pitches and better conditions, it must be said) than just five, which was his final tally in two Tests. Zaheer finished with just three wickets in the series.


Photographs: REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

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Overall, all the seniors, save Dhoni, who was very consistent with the bat and made runs in all the three innings when India needed them the most, were a big disappointment, considering their vast experience.

Sehwag appeared well set to play his customary monumental innings on all the three occasions but, as is his wont, he spoiled his masterpieces with reckless shots.

Gambhir seems to be suddenly afflicted with the lack-of-concentration syndrome at this stage of his career.


Photographs: REUTERS/Vivek Prakash
Tags: India , Dhoni

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What can one say about the 'uncriticisable' (at least in this country, where he enjoys a God-like status) Tendulkar?

His persistent failure and mode of dismissals have triggered off debates and discussions with cricketers of the standing and reputation such as Sunil Gavaskar and Sanjay Manjrekar throwing their hats in the ring.

The victory should act as a morale booster for Team India which next takes on England in a more comprehensive series. It is yet another feather in Dhoni's already crowded captaincy cap. To say that he led from the front is to state the obvious.


Photographs: REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

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