Good-bye to New Zealand and its green tops, seaming pitches, and awkward bounce. Good-bye to Daryl Tuffey too. I am sure that most Indian batsmen have recurring nightmares of facing the tall, burly fast bowler.
After the dismal showing in the Tests, I had hoped that this Indian team would show more resolve in the limited-overs games. But that was not to be. Even though India won a couple of games after the series was lost, there was not one convincing performance to suggest that this team is prepared for the World Cup.
After the 5-2 loss, it is indeed time for serious self-examination, and that must happen within the team. The coach and captain should sit down with the boys and analyse why and where things went wrong. True, a few weeks away from the World Cup might not be the best time for a post-mortem but there certainly are a few things that nobody can gloss over.
Rakesh Patel, for one, would have been better off playing for Baroda than being on a paid holiday in New Zealand. His fate was but one example of the lack of clarity in the Indian think-tank; they were hoping for a miracle that was never meant to be. As for the famed batting line-up, the fact that only Virender Sehwag averaged even 20 per innings was by itself a damning indictment of their so-called prowess.
Interestingly, Dinesh Mongia has not been able to justify his inclusion in the squad. Perhaps it could be attributed to a sense of complacency. To notice its deleterious effects one need not look any further than Mohammad Kaif, who averages below nine runs per innings in his last eleven games. It is about time the selectors had a strong word with young talented players like him.
Moving on, didn't Ajit Agarkar come close to scoring a hundred batting at number three in an ODI not too long ago? I just cannot understand why that ploy was not tried out again in New Zealand.
Towards the end, the one-day series became a futile exercise in getting the established players searching for some sort of form. I sincerely hope that their pride has been hurt and that they have learnt some lessons. If they haven't and fail in the World Cup too, there could be a major restructuring of this team, as there is enough talent in India no matter what the man who speaks in idioms tries to tell the world.
It is the fact that India surrendered so meekly to a very ordinary New Zealand team that annoys me so. Make no mistake: if both the teams were to carry their current form into the World Cup, they will struggle miserably.
New Zealand cricket chief Martin Snedden, in his post-series comments, took the easy way out blaming the poor quality of the pitches while failing to harp on the lack of technique of his own batsmen or of the visitors. But finding such escape routes will do neither team any good.
In the final analysis, it was better New Zealand bowling and fielding that made the difference given the dismal failure of batsmen from both sides. Apart from Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan, no Indian bowler was good enough to claim ten or more wickets in the ODI series. If someone like Ashish Nehra could only get you five wickets at almost 39 runs apiece in six games, what logic can explain the decision to give our proven strike bowler, Harbhajan Singh, just two games in the whole one-day series?
No one questions the talent of this Indian team. The only thought that refuses to leave me is whether the team management did enough to harness the talent on offer. Not too long ago, one Indian skipper said, "The captain is as good as his team". Well, the other side of the argument is that a team is only as good as the management is.