It wasn’t for anything that Virat Kohli termed New Zealand’s 3-0 rout as a “proper team series win” and a simple piece of statistic will reveal why his observation seems to be so apt in the bigger context.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin’s 27 wickets complemented by Ravindra Jadeja’s 14 accounted for 41 of the 60 New Zealand scalps.
Compared to India’s rich haul, the Kiwi bowlers in all managed 42 scalps — just one more than the Indian ‘spin twins’. Mitchell Santner and Trent Boult just about managed to hit the double figures with 10 wickets apiece.
Ashwin’s 27 wicket haul is the second best to Harbhajan Singh (32 wickets vs Australia in 2001) in a three-Test series and with couple of 10-wicket match hauls is only second to Anil Kumble with 6 from 39 Tests.
Ashwin also has the maximum number of Test victims (220) by any bowler after his first 39 Test matches.
The wickets weren’t exactly rank turners and Ashwin at times became unplayable on 3rd and 4th day pitches purely due to his skill rather than help off the pitch.
Jadeja as Ashwin termed was an ideal foil as he got the breakthroughs and kept it tight at an economy rate of 2.34.
Among pacers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar with a five-wicket haul set it up nicely in Kolkata as Mohammed Shami (8 wickets) got the ball to reverse in the second innings at the Eden Gardens.
In the batting department, Cheteshwar Pujara was in his elements, scoring 373 runs with a hundred and three half-centuries with a handsome average of 74 plus. It seems that he has made the number three slot his own some more time.
The ever-dependable Ajinkya Rahane continued to grow in stature as a fine long-format player as he recorded his highest individual score of 188 in the Indore Test and was the second highest scorer in the series with 347 runs.
Virat Kohli’s double hundred was a delight as the Indian captain joined the party late but ended with 309 runs from the series.
While 211 was a fantastic effort in which he displayed essential virtue like patience, his second innings 45 at Kolkata was a classic cameo considering the pitch became dodgier with passage of time.
Kohli, the captain also came to the fore as he backed Rohit Sharma to the hilt with the Mumbaikar doing well with three second innings half centuries. The 82 at Eden Gardens was an effort which gave India a decisive upper-hand.
The other big positive was Wriddhiman Saha slowly but surely filling up the big boots left by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The quiet Bengal stumper has been brilliant with his glove work but time and again showed that he has the ability to bat with the tail. The two half-centuries at the Eden Gardens and the man of the match award only bolster his confidence.
In a thoroughly one-sided series, the only minor blip could be the performance of opener Shikhar Dhawan who failed in the Kolkata Test and should be worried about his place in the side.
Murali Vijay had a couple of half-centuries while Gautam Gambhir, coming back after two and half years, scored a half-century to increase the dilemma of the selectors.
For New Zealand, opener Tom Latham scored three half-centuries in three matches and was the only batsman to aggregate a total of 200 runs — something that Kohli scored in a single innings.
With captain Kane Williamson not managing to negotiate Ashwin well with only 135 runs — one of his disappointing series in recent times, the New Zealand batting looked brittle.
In bowling, the spinners led by Mitchell Santner (10 wickets) tried their best but against a quality batting line-up, they were expected to be found short.
Trent Boult (10 wickets) bowled his heart out but there was little help from the other end as neither Matt Henry (6 wickets) nor Neil Wagner (5 wickets) had the expertise to bowl on Indian pitches.
Boult did miss Tim Southee as his experience would have come in handy.