With the pitches slow, the cricket in this series was largely attritional and did little to restore the falling popularity of Test cricket in a country where, before India's World Cup success in 1983, Test match tickets sold at a premium. A deplorable pitch at Kanpur provided the springboard from which India leapt to victory in the Second Test, but while they also had the better of the Mohali and Ahmedabad Tests, both were drawn. So were two of the New Zealanders' other first-class games. They lost the third, to the Ranji Trophy champions, Karnataka.
Where India had the edge was in the sheer weight of runs accumulated by their top order, the bulk of them, 435 at 108.75, coming from Sachin Tendulkar, who eschewed flamboyance and daredevilry to fulfil his responsibility as captain. The new opening partnership of Devang Gandhi, making his Test debut, and Sadagoppan Ramesh was consistent, Sourav Ganguly was productive and entertaining, and Rahul Dravid played an exquisite innings of 144 in the second innings of the First Test at Mohali. Put in on a pitch containing some moisture, India had been routed for a paltry 83. They responded to the shock of this débâcle by piling up a big score in the second innings, and they batted in the following Tests as if chastened by the initial experience.
New Zealand's batting never came to terms with the slow pitches and each time, except in their final innings of the series, it suffered from the openers' failure to lay a foundation. No one recorded a century on their behalf (the Indians compiled five) and only Stephen Fleming, the captain, finished with an average higher than 40 (52.20). That said, however, their batsmen were full of fight, and the middle order usually kept the Indian bowlers at bay long enough to prevent them from forcing home their advantage.
Neither side's attack was razor sharp. India were heavily dependent on Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble, who took 13 and 20 wickets respectively, while the other seven bowlers managed only 16 between them. Even so, Kumble gathered half his aggregate at Kanpur, where the bounce of the pitch was horrendously erratic, and Srinath captured six wickets in the first innings of the opening Test. Thereafter, his effectiveness was dulled by the lack of pace in the pitches and, no less, from being overworked.
Not surprisingly, considering the nature of the pitches, slow left-armer Daniel Vettori was New Zealand's main wicket-taker. He took six for 127 in India's first innings at Kanpur, but 12 wickets were an inadequate return from 191.3 overs in the series. He was the best finger-spinner on either side, impressing with his variations of pace and flight and his subtle use of the crease, so it was a pity that often, and sometimes for long periods, he bowled negatively from over the wicket into the rough outside leg stump. Still only 20, Vettori left India's shores with sore fingers and an aching body, but a better bowler for the experience of jousting with some of the best players of spin.
The pitches reduced New Zealand's strike bowlers, Chris Cairns and Dion Nash, to workhorses. Nash started off with a bag of six wickets, but could scrape up only two more in the series, while Cairns had to be content with five. However, they bowled with immense discipline in a containing role, as did Nathan Astle, who delivered his 79 overs with commendable economy. The quality of fielding on both sides was variable, more unexpectedly on New Zealand's part considering the standard achieved in England a few months earlier. Missed chances cost them dearly in every Test.
India also won the series of five one-day internationals, though it stayed open until the final encounter. The high point was provided by Tendulkar and Dravid, whose second-wicket partnership of 331 at Hyderabad set a world record for any wicket in one-day internationals.
Match reports for
Tour Match: India A v New Zealanders at Pune, Sep 30-Oct 2, 1999
Tour Match: Indian Board President's XI v New Zealanders at Jodhpur, Oct 5-7, 1999
Tour Match: Karnataka v New Zealanders at Bangalore, Oct 17-19, 1999