Chasing India’s first innings total of 345, New Zealand began the day on 129 for no loss but, thanks to Axar’s brilliance, were bowled out for 299. India gained a lead of 49 runs, which they extended to 63 by scoring 14 for 1 by stumps.
Speaking at the end of the day’s play, Axar was asked about his transformation to playing Test matches from being a white-ball player. The 27-year-old countered that he has never considered himself as a white-ball specialist. He said, "Whenever I have played first-class or India A, I have done well. I have never seen myself as a white ball specialist.”
He claimed that the perception of being a white-ball cricketer or red-ball cricketer was all in the mind. He added, "It's all in mind-set as to what you perceive yourself as - a white ball specialist or red ball specialist. I always had the belief that whenever I get a chance I will do well. Obviously, I give credit to team members for having faith in me and I have been able to stand up to their expectations."
With Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja around, Axar is not guaranteed of a place in the Test playing XI. However, the left-arm spinner doesn’t see that as a hindrance. Looking at the positive side, he stated, “Whenever I go to the ground, I try and enjoy and not think about whether Ashwin bhai and Jaddu are there. When I have ball in my hand, I just try and see to it that I am enjoying my bowling, trying to read the wicket and understand what’s happening, how it’s behaving and plan accordingly.”
New Zealand were 197 for 1 at one stage in their first innings when their skipper Kane Williamson was trapped lbw by Umesh Yadav for 18. The visitors ended up losing nine wickets for 99 runs. Apart from Axar, Ashwin also made an impact, claiming three scalps.
--By A Cricket Correspondent