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Old Guest Column

No satisfaction

There was a lot more cricket left in the New Zealand-India series but the draw at Mohali ensured that arguments about the respective merits of the two teams remained inconclusive

Daryl Tuffey: cannon fodder anyone?

Two-match Test series between sides rated third and fifth in the world should be outlawed. There was a lot more cricket left in this New Zealand-India series, but the draw at Mohali ensured that arguments about the respective merits of the two teams remained inconclusive.
The two-Test series is one of the outcomes of the amount of cricket being played nowadays, but while one-day tournaments proliferate, the real deal is being denied the players and fans. The first Test was dominated by India, who were unable to break New Zealand's second-innings resistance, while the second Test was controlled by New Zealand, who finally couldn't get past VVS Laxman.
How interesting a third Test would have been, with both sides having had a good long look at each other in both batting and bowling. We will never know how the teams would have coped with the stresses and strains of the Motera and Mohali Tests.
Would Sachin Tendulkar have regained his touch under different circumstances? Would Daryl Tuffey have maintained the remarkable competitive qualities he has shown in this series? Would the New Zealanders have been able to work out Rahul Dravid? Would India have found a way to get at Daniel Vettori, and so on? There are no answers, and from a cricket viewpoint, that is disappointing.
What the series did show was that New Zealand adapted far better to the prevailing conditions than India did when they visited New Zealand last season. But that was not so unusual given the amount of cricket NZ have played on the subcontinent in recent seasons. It showed also that the innovative preparation had its merits, and while it wasn't enough to provide a victory, it contributed in no small measure to the avoidance of defeat.
It should be no surprise that the New Zealanders were able to adapt. Success demands adaptability, and the record shows that when the teams have managed to come to terms with different conditions, New Zealand - despite being such a small nation - has pulled off some notable sporting victories.
As they reflect on the Test series, New Zealand can look at the rehabilitation of Craig McMillan as one of the biggest plusses. His two half-centuries and match-saving role in the first, coupled with his second-Test century, have been an outstanding riposte to his critics.
Similarly, Tuffey has silenced the doubters who claimed he would be cannon-fodder in Indian conditions. A second-innings bag of Sehwag (1), Dravid (5) and Tendulkar (1) at Mohali says it all. His competitiveness will never be doubted after the superb run-out he achieved to dismiss Anil Kumble and open up the possibility of the follow-on being enforced.
Ian Butler also confirmed what was known about him - that he had heart, and plenty of it. The sight of him and Shane Bond opening the bowling must be one of the most enticing prospects of the summer to come.
Nathan Astle's batting in the first Test merely highlighted how important he is to NZ's batting formula, but it is to be sincerely hoped that his knee problems are not going to reflect those that marred the last two or three years of Martin Crowe's career. But Lou Vincent and Scott Styris, by scoring their second Test centuries, revealed that the depth of skill and maturity is increasing at an opportune time.
Given the nature of the pitches it was always going to be difficult for the spin bowlers, and the figures of the Indian bowlers confirms that more than anything, in conditions that they are used to. But Vettori showed remarkable resilience, while Paul Wiseman did his future prospects no harm at all.
There was also time to admire the return of VVS Laxman, a fine batsman of infinite value to his side, while Rahul Dravid's wicket is still one the New Zealanders like to pick up more than most.
What a shame the series had to end after only two matches. The appetite was whetted, and then the plate taken away. Never again, please.