Batting blueprint was executed again - McCullum
Brendon McCullum is pleased with New Zealand clicking in every department in the first two ODIs against India. Both times, they have put big runs on the board after losing the toss. Both times, they haven't allowed India to blaze away early. And both times, they have absorbed pressure while defending to break threatening partnerships and close out the game. The fielding, as always, has been an asset.
Barring the few dropped chances, McCullum was satisfied with how his side had dealt with the challenge of facing up to the world champions so far, starting with scoring enough runs.
"I thought the way we constructed our batting innings again through the back of Kane [Williamson] and Ross's [Taylor] partnership, and Martin's [Guptill] hand, gave us the platform from where to launch," McCullum said. "And whilst the game was shortened, we were still in a nice position to do so. The batting blueprint was again executed tonight, which was encouraging obviously. And again I thought under pressure against a very good Indian batting line-up, we delivered at key times. It's big from a confidence point of view. We have just got the challenge now to put it together again in a few days' time."
When it comes to India's batsmen, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have had plenty of success in the past year as an opening pair but New Zealand have been able to separate them without too much damage.
McCullum said the key was to be effective with the new ball. "Ideally you want to take wickets up front and that's where we spend our resources much, especially to try to attack early on knowing how important wickets are to the confidence of a team chasing. If we can get early wickets - we weren't able to do that - but we did the next best thing which is to control the run-rate. And when you control the run-rate, there is pressure on the batsman and the wickets sort of followed after that.
"I thought it was a pretty good performance from us with the ball under pressure. They played again some excellent hands. [Virat] Kohli again was brilliant to watch, put us under pressure but we stepped up at key times, different guys as well which was encouraging."
Kohli has made 123 and 78 in Napier and Hamilton respectively, and as long as he was in flow in both matches, along with MS Dhoni, India were in with a chance. McCullum said that to be in the hunt in such big chases despite losing other key batsmen showed what a quality side New Zealand were up against.
"Continue to learn that they (Kohli and Dhoni) are very, very good players. They are obviously very good at how to construct a run chase around, both those guys. It's quite important to not sit against them, it is important to try and take wickets knowing that if you can remove one of those two, it goes a long way towards nullifying their chase.
"They are a very good team. There are not too many teams around the world where you head in at half time in a 42-over game with 300 on the board and you know that you still have to scrap pretty hard with the ball and in the field. Against this team we know that's the case and thankfully we got it done under pressure."
One example of getting it done under pressure was Corey Anderson, who took quite a beating initially before coming back to pick up three late wickets, including the critical one of Dhoni. McCullum was grateful for the aggressive role Anderson played with the bat, but added it was important to support bowlers.
"With the ball, he didn't start that well, he knows that. One of the things we are trying to do is to ensure that you keep giving guys opportunities even though they may not start well but you need to keep coming back to them. Otherwise they will never get the opportunity to learn either. So that's one thing that we are pretty keen on, still allowing him to have that opportunity under pressure at the end there to really stand up and show how he can operate under pressure. I thought he did that really well, I think he learnt quite a lot with the ball in hand today."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo