India skipper MS Dhoni regrets not having capitalised on a great start after having picked five early wickets in the second innings with New Zealand looking on course for an innings defeat. The Kiwis, however, went on to add a staggering 586 runs from there in the second Test in Wellington which eventually ended in a draw on Tuesday.
New Zealand, from a precarious 94 for five, posted an outstanding 680 for eight with McCullum, who was dropped on 9 and 36, leading from the front, and getting great support from BJ Watling and James Neesham.
The result of the huge New Zealand second innings score was India being set a near-impossible target of 435 in 67 overs, with the away team eventually finishing on 166 for three.
"That was one of the partnerships that we had to break to get into the lower order batsmen," said Dhoni commenting on the record sixth-wicket partnership of McCullum and Watling.
"From behind the stumps, you try to figure out how to get him out. You'll try everything from catching slips to catching covers to deep square leg to deep point. Bowling onto the pads and bowling outside off.
"Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't work. I think overall we'll accept that we were not able to get two batsmen out and they batted really well."
Dhoni agreed that New Zealand's efforts were to be praised. However, it wasn't easy for the Indian bowlers having been on the field for so long and bowling 210 overs before New Zealand declared their innings.
"As a cricket fan, he (McCullum) batted really well and he was given good company by Watling," Dhoni said. "He played a lot of deliveries. Playing close to 500-odd deliveries is in itself very tough, forget the amount of runs he has scored. It was one of the better innings we were able to see.
"We give credit to them but at the same time what really needs to be appreciated is the will and the way our fast bowlers tried to get the opposition out on a very flat wicket."
What New Zealand had and India lacked was quality all-rounders in the form of Corey Anderson and Neesham opined the skipper.
"It's good to have cricketers who can bat and bowl, especially in Test matches. Playing on surfaces like this, you may need that fifth bowler. We have not been able to get the kind of all-rounder that some of the other countries have. With that you can try to maintain the pressure. Overall, that really set the tone for the New Zealand team."
The New Zealand series loss comes as the second overseas defeat for India in recent months. In December last year, India lost the ODI series as well as the Test series in South Africa. Their last win came as far back as June 2011 when they won a Test against West Indies in Kingston.
"The ODIs were disappointing to some extent, especially the New Zealand part," Dhoni added. "South Africa, you can always say we didn't get enough time to prepare ourselves and in a three-match series, it is difficult to come back. But in New Zealand, there were instances where we could have capitalised on the kind of starts we got.
"We saw a glimpse of that in the last Test match also. In the second innings we bowled fantastically well to come back into the series. Then, when we were batting, I felt we had a good partnership going but we lost wickets at the wrong time and that put the pressure back on us. That's one part where we will have to improve. What's important is to see whether we have improved and changed the way we have played our cricket.
"If we compare it to the South Africa series, there are plenty of positives; we have more positives to take along with us."