Amid the disappointment of having lost a Test, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson felt the team had the skill to compete but has asked his team-mates to apply them for much longer durations. There were times when New Zealand had India under pressure, the batsmen combating unfamiliar conditions, but such is the dominance of India's spinners in their own conditions that New Zealand still lost by a whopping 197 runs. Williamson identified the breaks in concentration as something that could be improved despite the short turnover involved while playing three back-to-back Tests.
"On the scorecard it looks like a biggish defeat, but there were a couple of moments that I would reflect on as where the game turned slightly more in their favour," he said. "The back end of our first innings with the bat and certainly when we bowled in the second innings there was probably a three-hour period where we didn't bowl very well and they got away from us. It's a combination of us not quite being at our best at certain times, and they played very well."
New Zealand lost the toss in Kanpur but had competed with India evenly for the first six sessions. They had five wickets in hand and a first-innings lead was only 63 runs away when they collapsed from 255 for 5 to 262 all out. India ended up with a 56-run advantage - which is as good as 150 in these conditions - and it showed in how demoralised the New Zealand bowlers were in the second innings, and how freely the India batsmen were able to score.
"Obviously, whenever you lose it's disappointing," Williamson said, "but credit certainly has to go to India. They're a good side, particularly in their home conditions and they showed that again. In saying that, there are certainly positives for us to take from this Test into the next one. The way Mitch Santner played, and Luke Ronchi, coming back into the side [making 38 and 80] were a couple of highlights. As a unit we want to be able to apply that pressure for longer, which isn't always easy in this part of the world against a side like India. But it's certainly a challenge for us moving forward."
New Zealand have three days left for the next Test in Kolkata. They would need to recover physically, and then figure out ways to be better, both individually and as a team.
"The first thing is the guys need to recover well," Williamson said. "There were a lot of good things to come out of this game, and for a number of players it is their first time batting in these sort of conditions. There will be a lot of lessons learnt, reflecting on those and looking to apply the skills that worked for a period of time for a lot longer. That's certainly what the Indian players do, it is very important.
"[R] Ashwin and [Ravindra] Jadeja are both very good bowlers but there were a lot of positives for us," Williamson said. "Guys who hadn't played here before spent some valuable time in the middle and made some valuable contributions. Mitch Santner for one and Luke Ronchi another who certainly showed they had the skill-sets to perform well in these conditions. I do think it's applying ourselves for longer."
As he had said in the lead-up to the Kanpur Test, Williamson pointed out how his team could learn from India. "It is a challenge against a very good attack but they [the New Zealand players] have got the skill-sets, and it's being able to stick to it for a lot longer. That is the same with the ball for our young spin attack, who are extremely talented. Being over here in these hot conditions, being able to remain focussed for a long period because you know if you put the ball in the area for long enough, you'll get your rewards. That's what the Indian team showed us."
One of the reasons for Williamson hoping New Zealand could put up a better fight as the series wore on was Santner, who became the first player from his country to aggregate more than 100 runs and five wickets in a Test since 2011.
"He played outstandingly well," Williamson said. "It's his first time in this part of the world playing Test cricket, and it was a great step in the right direction for his game. We all know he has got the talent with bat and ball and in the field. To apply himself like he did and bowl a number of overs and be successful was very good against good players of spin. It was a huge positive for us. He'll look forward to the next one, and I'm sure he's learnt a lot from this experience."
Martin Guptill, on the other hand, had an underwhelming Test with 21 in the first innings and a duck in the second. Williamson didn't say if Guptill's position was in threat yet. "This game has just finished so we get to sit down and talk about whatever the team may be for the next one and what balance will go in with. In the first innings, he got off to a good start and was perhaps a bit unfortunate in the second innings, but he has certainly shown his class in the white-ball format and we are backing him to show that in the red-ball [format]. He is working hard at his game and looking to improve. It isn't the easiest of places to play sometimes. We'll sit down in the next day or two and look at the side we might go with."