New Zealand were expected to ask difficult questions of India because, especially in their own den, they have been a formidable force for so long. But India have mercilessly overrun them match after match, playing a ruthless but attractive brand of cricket in keeping with their status as world leaders.
I have been particularly impressed with how the bowling group has mastered a settled and seasoned batting unit. I get the impression from their body language and some of their comments that New Zealand are intimidated by this Indian side.
The two wrist-spinners have been sensational, addressing the challenges posed by the short square boundaries with a big heart. Kuldeep and Chahal have been unafraid to flight the ball and hoodwink the batsmen in the air. They have slowed the pace down, bowling between 76 and 80km/h for the large part and not allowing the batsmen to play them off the back foot.
Apart from Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Tom Latham, I don’t think the other batsmen are able to pick their variations off the hand. That will be India’s USP in the middle overs going into the World Cup.
Bhuvaneswar Kumar and more so, Mohammad Shami have been brilliant with the new ball. Shami has slipped effortlessly back into white-ball mode and backed up one incisive spell with another, which is a tribute to both his skills and his vastly improved fitness levels. India haven’t, almost, missed Bumrah — and that is no mean accomplishment.
The other heartening feature of this one-day series has been the consistent contributions from the middle-order. Hitherto far too dependent on their top-three, India will have drawn encouragement from the performances of Dhoni, Jadhav, Rayudu and Karthik. The first two finished off the innings in exhilarating fashion in the second ODI, while Rayudu and Karthik steered the team home with an unbroken stand in the third match.
There is a more rounded look to the batting group now because of the consistency of run-making from the top-six. Again, ahead of the World Cup, that is a very welcome development.
Having already sealed the series, India’s eyes will now be trained on a rare clean sweep on overseas soil. Virat will be on a well-earned rest, but as he pointed out, this side is on auto mode, and Rohit Sharma has repeatedly shown that he is a more than able replacement.
New Zealand can expect no respite.