M.S. Dhoni said after the seven-wicket defeat in Christchurch on Wednesday that his was a young Indian side that learnt quickly from its errors.
The Indian captain’s statement — drawn from a commendable dossier of evidence — will be severely tested on Friday, for his side has had only a day’s turnaround time since the first Twenty20 International.
Both New Zealand and India arrived in hilly, windy Wellington on Thursday — the home side to mild media interest, the touring side to the beat of a dhol — for the second and final Twenty20 International at the Westpac Stadium.
Fortunately for India, the mistakes from the first game don’t require an overhaul of technique. While much will depend on the conditions at the Westpac Stadium, the adjustments that need to be made from the first game are mental — they pertain to embracing thrift.
Tempted by the short boundaries at the AMI Stadium, powered by the adrenaline rush this format triggers, and disoriented by the blindfold that batting first had slipped on, India’s batsmen over-reached themselves in the first Twenty20 International.
It was heady when it lasted; it didn’t last long. Not even those as generously talented as the Indian batsmen can afford such excess.
Setback! thundered Yuvraj Singh, asked if the defeat had dimmed the spirit of the side. “A setback after one game? The feeling is good, it is just one game. We made some mistakes, it is the start of a new tour, and we have to understand a few things about the conditions and the wickets,” he said.
“We played too many shots,” admitted Yuvraj. “The moment we got going we got out. We didn’t have too many early partnerships. We just need to assess the conditions better and batsmen need to take more responsibility. It’ll be a different game altogether the next one. It’s a measure of how well India and Yuvraj have acquitted themselves, particularly in Twenty20 cricket, that the promise of a turnaround doesn’t sound like bluster.
India will need to tighten its fielding however. While it isn’t fair — or humane — to grudge a squad that has travelled as much as India some shut-eye, they might have benefited from the session pencilled for Thursday evening, which was subsequently cancelled.
On the surface, New Zealand appears to have no worries. But until Martin Guptill found his voice, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma heckled the top-order under lights. Indeed, Ishant had a close shout for leg-before against Guptill — small things turn games of this duration, and had that decision been given, this piece would have had a decidedly different tone.
That doesn’t detract, however, from the efforts of Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, and Jacob Oram. Harbhajan Singh’s speared yorkers were treated with respect, but Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan, and Yuvraj were given a touch up.
Irfan is a vital component in the limited-overs side because he lengthens the batting (a benefit realised in Sri Lanka).
But bereft of the new white ball and thus swing, Irfan appears easy to line-up — New Zealand’s batsmen were able to set themselves against him, widening their base by either stepping the front leg out of the way or towards the line, and tee off.
New Zealand’s seamers, particularly the impressive Iain O’Brien and Ian Butler, showed the value of attacking the stumps with a full length, but it was the performance of captain Daniel Vettori that gladdened the neutrals’ heart.
His control of trajectory was masterful, as was his change of pace. Vettori has also infused his mates with the belief that they can hang with the big boys.
“We want to win the series,” said New Zealand coach Andy Moles.
“We know we are up against a very, very talented Indian side, but we’ve got our noses in front. We’ve had a lot of drawn (Twenty20) series here in the last few months. But we are about winning, and we obviously need to move forward and do that.”