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Kiwis have the mental edge now

October 15, 2003

If you had seen the faces of the Indian players on the final day of the first Test at Ahmedabad, you could have been fooled into thinking that it was they, and not the Kiwis, who were fighting for survival.

The drooping shoulders, crestfallen faces, hands on hips, and despairing looks have a story to tell.

Craig McMillan sweeping New Zealand out of harm's wayOne thing was clear at the end of the day: New Zealand, not India, had achieved the moral victory.

Though Sourav Ganguly said at the post-match press conference that the only option for the Indians now was to go and win the second Test at Mohali, one got the feeling that the host team had accepted the draw as inevitable much before the final ball was bowled.

It was clear to all those watching that something was amiss. The fielding was generally lethargic, the bowlers looked beat, and Ganguly just stood and watched, also seemingly subdued by the partnership between Craig McMillan and Nathan Astle.

Ganguly's flaccidity was in stark contrast to his normally aggressive approach on the field. Maybe the abscess in his right leg near the groin was bothering him. But setting defensive fields is not exactly the way to win a Test match. That was just what the skipper did after claiming the new ball in the 80th over of New Zealand's second innings. Rahul Dravid was the lone slip. The rest of the field was well spread out. There were no close-in fielders, just four men on the 30 yard circle.

To do what, one may ask.

Were the fielders trying to save a single or were they trying to concede one?

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Kiwis in India 2003
Till the new ball was taken, the spinners were doing a decent job. But Ganguly could have argued that they were not taking any wickets and seemed harmless. Fair enough. A change of pace always has the chance of producing a wicket. But don't you need a plan in place as well? Is the change of pace all that is needed?

The Indian team certainly seemed to be lacking in planning.

If Ganguly was indeed trying to win the match, he needed to try and do something more than simply stem the flow of runs. Anyway, 322 was rather too large a total to chase in a day. A captain as successful as Ganguly would have been expected to show a little more pluck, a little more imagination.

The venue for the second Test, Mohali, is one of the bouncier tracks in the country and if the Kiwis have their way, India will have to fight every inch. Many of the Indians blamed the "dead track" in Motera for the draw. Now they will have the bounce and pace of Mohali to contend with.

Anil Kumble is disappointed on failing to claim AstleA helpful track is always welcome. But only when India starts to win games on the strength of its attack alone will they be able to challenge the mighty Australians.

Meanwhile, the Kiwis certainly take away more positives from the first Test than the Indians. Prime among them is the self-belief that they can bat for long periods against the spin twins, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.

They plan their game well, and though they may not have individual talents to win matches, they can match the best on their day. As it is, they are known for working their way through tours, improving with every match and every ball bowled.

Knowingly or unknowingly Ganguly and his men have handed the psychological advantage to the Kiwis before the Mohali Test. One can only hope that the Indians put the disappointment of Ahmedabad behind them and return to their normal boisterous selves, fighting with pride and passion in the way that only they can.

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