Watching India's performance against New Zealand gave me, and the millions of other Indian fans, a lot of satisfaction. I personally am convinced that this team can go a long way.
The Indian team dominated New Zealand throughout the series, except for the first day of the first Test match. In every subsequent day and session of the match, the Indian team performed much better and overpowered the Kiwis.
It was heartening for me to see that the Indians excelled under a variety of conditions and in all given situations. There were changes made to the team in every match, but all the players
stepped up when called upon.
It's rare to see all the 15 players in the squad contributing throughout the series, which makes this win all the more memorable.
Despite injuries and sickness taking away key players like Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, Virat Kohli's men didn't show any weakness and constantly played on the front foot.
The bench strength was the team’s greatest asset against New Zealand, and that was strikingly evident in the first two Tests. Despite there being no individual centuries by either team, the Indians were always in the driving seat thanks to the contributions from the lesser-known players.
Another important takeaway was the emphasis on total team performance. That was best exemplified by the lower order batsmen, who showed great application and enterprise to help bolster the team's total.
The team chemistry wasn't affected by any of the injuries and replacements, and no one was surprised when India came out victorious in all matches.
What impressed me most was the fact that the team played like a collection of performers rather than a combination of stars, which bodes very well for the future. Though there are big stars like Virat Kohli and Ravichandran Ashwin to put in the box office performances, the fact that India relied upon consistency and not individual qualities is a sign that the team is coming together very well, and gaining a lot of confidence.
Becoming the top-ranked Test team in the world is just reward for this Indian side, and I hope to see them continuing in the same vein going forward. Their consistency and versatility in this series have given them multiple match-winning combinations for the future, and the next couple of months promise to create an intriguing winter of cricket.
When people look back at the series and try to point out the best individual performers, Cheteshwar Pujara will stand out as the man who impressed most.
He had been criticized heavily for his performances in West Indies but he silenced his detractors with his batting against New Zealand, ending the series as the top scorer. He compiled 373 runs, of which 204 runs came in the form of boundaries, dispelling the myth that he can't be an attacking batsman.
Hopefully, his performance has secured his place for the foreseeable future at the critical number three position in the team.
Another player who proved everyone wrong was Wriddhiman Saha. He had come into the team as a wicketkeeper following MS Dhoni’s retirement, and was under tremendous pressure to match up to people’s expectations. When he faltered a little in his first few tournaments, the knives were out in full force, demanding a replacement.
But Saha has had a great season of Test cricket so far, starting from the West Indies tour and going all the way to Indore. He has proved his worth many times over, and has matched Dhoni’s match-winning performances.
A word of praise is in order for Rohit Sharma, who showed some signs of consistency and made good use of his opportunities, scoring three half centuries.
His showing would have definitely put the team management, particularly the captain, at ease. Sharma has always been a very dangerous ODI player, and his consistency, coupled with his ability to play big knocks make him a big contender for the newly announced Jana Bankable Player award during the ODI series.
Ravichandran Ashwin – Man of the Series
A special word of praise for Ashwin, whose phenomenal bowling has been very impressive to watch. If he keeps performing in the same manner, it won't be long before comparisons with legends like Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble start.
This series saw him win the Man of the Match for his performance in the third Test, apart from being declared the Man of the Series. He had earlier also won the Jana Bankable Player of the Match award for his consistent performances in the second Test.
In his short career of 39 Test matches, Ashwin has won the ‘Man of the Series’ award a whopping seven times and picked up a staggering tally of 220 wickets. It's safe to say that he has become a true match-winner for the Indians.
To sum it up, this Indian team has the talent and ability to beat any side in the world, and the fortitude to succeed consistently. Hopefully, they will make winning matches and series a ‘habit’.
I would also like to say that the wickets provided by the pitch curators at all three Test match venues were of international standard, and were helpful to both spinners as well as fast bowlers.
Finally, spare a thought for the New Zealanders. Though India thoroughly outplayed the visitors in the series, the Kiwis did do well in patches. I expect them to provide a tougher fight in the One Day International series coming up.