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India fight back after dismal first day
Krishnamachari Srikkanth - 13 December 2002

For the first day of an eminently winnable Test series, India fared poorly at the Basin Reserve, Wellington. Despite the hype surrounding the mighty batting line-up, it was precisely that facet of the game that collapsed for India, and it was a disappointing display indeed by the Indians. The problems with the seaming ball have obviously not been sorted out, and the techniques of many of the batsmen were shown in poor light.

The sole exception to all this being, of course, Rahul Dravid, who displayed immense character during his knock of 76. It was a fine innings from him, and the other Indian batsmen could have learned much from Dravid's powers of application and concentration. He judged the situation nicely too, opening out with an array of cuts and drives once he saw that India needed runs in the bank and had only a few wickets in hand.

After that collapse, any Indian fan would have been heartened by the manner in which the team bounced back on the second day. Zaheer Khan, Sanjay Bangar and Harbhajan Singh have done a tremendous job, and Zaheer in particular slipped easily into the role of pace spearhead in the absence of Javagal Srinath.

Bangar, in my opinion, is one of the most under-rated cricketers around today. He values his India cap, having earned it with years of toil on the domestic circuit, and he really bowled his heart out on the second day, supporting the strike bowlers well. In fact, his wickets were a proof of the virtues of disciplined line and length, and he was in intelligent command of his craft at Wellington.

Harbhajan Singh looks to be getting better on foreign wickets, although it must be noted that the Basin Reserve wicket was more conducive to his brand of bowling than most other tracks abroad. That said, Harbhajan has definitely introduced subtle variations into his bowling over the past few months, and these are fetching him rich rewards.

If India can now restrict New Zealand to a small lead and then put a fighting total on the board for New Zealand to chase, I still think India has an outside chance of winning this Test. But they will have to play out of their skins to do so, and if they do, it will be one of their more famous wins in Indian history and yet another feather in this Indian team's cap.

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Other Articles by Krish Srikkanth