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India's tour of New Zealand was an unmitigated disaster for them. The Tests were surrendered in the blink of an eye, and the seven-match limited-overs series was decided almost as quickly. India saved some face by scraping home in the fifth and sixth one-day internationals, but this was merely cosmetic. New Zealand completed a 5-2 drubbing at Hamilton to ensure that India's trip ended as it began: in total disarray. The chance to make amends at the World Cup could not come quickly enough.
New Zealand's cricket fraternity wondered whether this was the worst side ever to visit; Bangladesh had been guests the previous year, so that was stretching a point. But on some measures India were indeed worse: they averaged 13.37 runs per wicket against the Bangladeshis' 14.50. A fairer contention was that, for sustained misery, the tour ranked alongside India's disastrous visits to Australia in 1991-92 and 1999-2000, when they lost 4-0 and 3-0 respectively. It worsened an already awful record outside India - just six wins in 65 Tests since beating England in 1986.
The batsmen had to take much of the blame, although the pitches were hardly beyond reproach. New Zealand Cricket had directed the groundsmen to produce fast, bouncy tracks, but a wet summer left them thankful to produce anything at all. The inevitable result was a sequence of greentops which led to criticism from NZC's chief executive, Martin Snedden, and cluelessness from India's batsmen. In 11 international innings, they never passed 219, and a wicket fell every four and a half overs. Out of 120 individual innings, there were just two hundreds, both by Sehwag, and three fifties. And on 25 occasions a batsman failed to score. For all the efforts of their seamers - Zaheer Khan was outstanding in the Tests, Javagal Srinath in the one-dayers - the batsmen simply didn't fancy the fight.
Their travails were epitomised by the captain, Sourav Ganguly, who prodded and poked his way to 87 runs in those 11 innings. He did his best to smile his way through the carnage, and cheerfully admitted that this was the worst his side had played since he took charge in early 2000. But he looked worn out, and so did his team-mates. Since the beginning of December 2001, India had played 19 Tests. New Zealand, by contrast, had appeared in just 11.
Whether New Zealand derived any real benefit from such easy pickings was another matter. The public grew disenchanted with India's collapses, and Stephen Fleming took the unusual step of batting first in tricky conditions in the Wellington one-dayer simply to provide his side with a test. In truth, his own batsmen struggled too - scraping together only five fifties - and his seamers were not made to work hard enough for their wickets, although Daryl Tuffey and Shane Bond were at times irresistible. Daniel Vettori, the experienced left-arm spinner, did not bowl at all in the Tests.
Even so, New Zealand's 2-0 victory - the first time they had won more than one Test in a series against India - maintained their unlikely position, under the ICC ranking system, as the third-best side in the world. Dodgy pitches or not, that was worth celebrating.
Match reports for
New Zealand v India at Christchurch, Dec 4, 2002
Tour Match: Central Districts v Indians at Napier, Dec 6-8, 2002
2nd ODI: New Zealand v India at Napier, Dec 29, 2002
3rd ODI: New Zealand v India at Christchurch, Jan 1, 2003