Flow and ebb: On India’s tour of New Zealand

India had a rude jolt in New Zealand after doing well in the shortest format of cricket

India’s recent cricket tour of New Zealand has been a tale of the spectacular rise followed by a debilitating fall. A 5-0 sweep in the Twenty20 series was seen as the perfect launch pad for Virat Kohli’s men to extend their supremacy in the subsequent One Day Internationals and Tests. But New Zealand at home, has always been an indomitable opposition. Just as Clive Lloyd’s marauding West Indians struggled in the early 1980s, it was India’s turn to eat humble pie. The ODIs were lost at 0-3 and in the following two Tests, New Zealand prevailed by 10 wickets and seven wickets at Wellington’s Basin Reserve and Christchurch’s Hagley Oval, respectively. The last mentioned game finished on Monday with two days to spare and the world’s number one ranked squad looked bereft of ideas. Indian batsmen floundered against nagging swing bowling, an old nemesis, while its speedsters led by Jasprit Bumrah emerged second-best to the host’s attack. Kane Williamson’s men, tough in their sport but quick to smile, proved that their 2019 World Cup semifinal victory over the Men in Blue at Manchester’s Old Trafford, wasn’t an exception. India’s woes tied up with history too as since its maiden tour of New Zealand during the 1967-68 season, it has won just two Test series while losing six and drawing level in the remaining two jousts.

India missed an injured Rohit Sharma atop the batting tree and its latest opening pair of Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw put on minuscule alliances of 16, 27, 30 and eight. The middle-order was exposed early to seamers Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Kyle Jamieson, who between them bagged 34 wickets to snuff out any latent resistance within the Indian ranks. Kohli suffered the batting horrors, with a mere 38 at an average of 9.50. Obviously an aberration in his otherwise exemplary record, but the skipper’s poor form affected the team. Meanwhile, Bumrah and company, without enough runs on the board backing them, could not exert pressure and their bowling wasn’t as effective as it was in the past. The latest slump in New Zealand did not reverse India’s supremacy in the World Test Championship table where Kohli’s unit still stays on top with 360 points, ahead of second-placed Australia (296 points). However, New Zealand leapfrogged from the sixth slot to third and is sitting well with 180 points. India has batsmen aplenty, who can hasten its scoring rate, but it also needs willow wielders capable of batting for time in Tests, a spirit that Rahul Dravid encapsulated and one that is evident in Cheteshwar Pujara too. It needs some more of this ilk, who prefer patience against good old swing bowling in cold climes.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 8:40:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/flow-and-ebb-the-hindu-editorial-on-indias-tour-of-new-zealand/article30975733.ece

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