David Leggat: McCullum's men need to keep up their good work

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Brendon McCullum. Photo / Getty Images
Brendon McCullum. Photo / Getty Images

The England team have skulked home, and amen for that, after a trip which exceeded its usefulness as a spectacle by weeks.

So often there has been a tendency to cast envious eyes across the Tasman for a headier test cricket brew during New Zealand's home international summer.

Where New Zealand's test cricket in recent seasons has sometimes seemed to suffer from a case of lower key-itis, the Aussie summer has been a richer, more colourful concoction.

Maybe it's the more expansive, more famous grounds; perhaps it's the cheerleading in the commentary box which jazzes things up. Either way, Australia are preparing to tackle South Africa in a heavyweight battle, and there's good reason for optimism that New Zealand vs India, starting at Eden Park today, can present itself as a compelling contest, too.

Indeed, there's a sense of New Zealand climbing a ladder.

They had their head stuck in the bottom rung 13 months ago while being pummelled by big bruisers South Africa.

There have been decent strides since then - along with a couple of stumbles, in England and Bangladesh.

However, New Zealand now have an opportunity to make a decisive statement on their development.

The West Indies were one thing, and an important 2-0 test series win it was before Christmas. They were the first on Brendon McCullum's captaincy watch, after 11 draws and defeats over the year. Along with the sighs of relief from the players, it introduced a dose of self assurance.

It brought a recognition that if they play well, with purpose and cricket smarts, and grab their opportunities they can succeed - and, importantly, get across the winning line.

Over the year they had created chances to win, which hadn't been taken. Now the players know the whole story of what is required. What's more they've done it.

Like a jigsaw, the players are now in place and know their roles.

Still, India is the true test. Draw the series and that's a respectable result. World No2 vs No7 after all. New Zealand no price, right?

Something similar was forecast for the ODI series, but this is - with due respect to those who worship at the one-day altar - the real barometer.

Success at Eden Park and/or the Basin Reserve will be hard earned. There can't be any corner-cutting.

What if India strike back hard from their one-day bruising? How will it affect New Zealand's summer rating?

It shouldn't detract from sub-stantial limited-overs strides but would be a sizeable disappointment, rather like roaring through the written driving test, then having a couple of sideswipes on the practical.

India will be a terrific yardstick for just where New Zealand sit as a test nation.

Beat the visitors and while possessing nothing like their financial wherewithal, in test-playing terms the home side will be able to look the tourists squarely in the eye.

- NZ Herald

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