'Never regretting not enforcing follow-on' - McCullum
Brendon McCullum did not enforce the follow-on at Eden Park and watched his batsmen crash to 105 in 41.2 overs in their second innings. He then saw India motor to 222 for 2 in their chase of 407. However, McCullum said that at no point did he second guess the choice he made, and was instead proud of the character New Zealand showed to absorb whatever India threw at them and secure a 40-run win.
"You can't regret any decision you make and you make that decision, you put some thought into it," McCullum said. "Specially when it comes to the follow-on, you speak to your bowlers and your senior players. Some people have different theories but you try to garner as much majority as you can. Ultimately someone has got to make that decision and I guess that comes down to me. I made the decision and I never regretted it for a moment."
McCullum reasoned there was no knowing how much India would have got had they been made to follow-on, and that New Zealand could have been handed a tricky chase. "There's no guarantee we would have bowled out India for 100 in their second innings and I said right at the outset that we have got the bowlers to take 20 wickets. It was a matter of trying to give them the most amount of rest to do so and we may have won it more comfortably but I would hate to see us chase 150-200 on the last day on that wicket with (Ravindra) Jadeja coming in to play."
Neil Wagner had said after the end of day three that New Zealand would have taken a 400-plus target for India anytime, and McCullum agreed it was a daunting total, despite the hosts' batting meltdown on the third day. "After we decided not to enforce the follow-on, we sort of hoped we would get a little more than a 100 in our second turn of bat. But that's what we got. I still thought 400 was a very good score. I think there's only three [four] teams in the history of the game that have chased over 400."
Although history was behind New Zealand, India had batted themselves into a strong position. McCullum said he knew India would take the game deep and was happy that his bowlers were able to ride out the challenge. "It was still a lot of runs on the board but the wicket was starting to play pretty well as well, so it was always going to be a tough ask and we knew that it was going to be a close contest towards the end. We also knew the quality of their batsmen and how they are capable of putting together big scores and big partnerships. At one stage, when they were sitting 220 for 2, we were starting to get ourselves behind the eight-ball and it took something pretty special to get us out of that.
"You always have to have that optimism right throughout. Even at 220 for 2, I still felt that we weren't that far away and that if we could get a couple of wickets leading into that new ball, I still felt confident that we were going to be ok. But then again, my confidence doesn't necessarily marry out with reality at times as well.
"It was a matter of trying to work out the ebbs and flows of the game, when to push, when to pull, when to attack at times and defend at other times. Whilst we didn't ram home the advantage we had in the second innings with the bat, I thought we showed a lot of heart and a lot of character to continue to bash away and keep fighting hard and get the result in the end. So I am immensely proud of all the boys. Neil Wagner in particular was outstanding."
Wagner sent back both Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli. The pair had added 126 for the third wicket, and once that stand was broken, New Zealand kept striking, and made the second new ball count as well, which McCullum was counting on. "We knew that was going to be a big part in the game. We needed wickets leading into that second new ball but we knew that the second new ball would certainly be of assistance to us if we did manage to be able to bowl at their middle to lower order."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo