It was sheer entertainment of watching batsmen go after the bowling in the initial field restriction overs in One-day cricket that provided the formula for Twenty20 cricket. While droves of fans embraced the shortest format, the 50-over game – the original crunched version of Test cricket -
suddenly became yawn-inducing.
Now, India being the playing ground of the world’s richest Twenty20 league has meant their players, not the most robust, had to learn to match the firepower of the best in the business.
After all, it is about putting on a show.
As India again struggled for batting momentum in the third One-day game in Auckland on Saturday where the late order batsmen forced a tie to keep alive the series, the top-order batsmen's bid to stay fashionable didn’t bear fruit.
Having resorted to savage hitting in the home ODI series against Australia on belters last year, India’s top-order batsmen seem to be paying the penalty for adopting that approach overseas.
With the fast bowlers getting more assistance, India would not have been 0-2 with two games left if the top-order batsmen had adopted the tested method of rotating the strike by taking singles. That approach has been the cornerstone of New Zealand’s consistency.
In Auckland, for the third match in a row, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan fell without getting a big score, both looking to stay over aggressive on a bouncy Eden Park pitch. The 64 runs they raised was their first half-century partnership in eight matches. The previous four, played in South Africa and New Zealand, ended in defeats chasing a target.
Another statistic pointed to a pattern. In their stand, 50 runs came in boundaries and both fell looking for more. In the second ODI in Hamilton too, they were out counter-attacking, and that was the case in Napier too. India may have to re-think their overdrive approach on the livelier pitches ahead of the World Cup.
New Zealand, despite having many big-hitters, have always looked to build the innings in convention style, laying the platform for the later batsmen to exploit. Their No 3 Kane Williamson has been the anchor each time, scoring three half-centuries in a row. His favourite shot early on is the no-risk back foot push into gaps for singles.
For India, Virat Kohli has neatly paced his innings but in the first two games, the visitors were already under pressure when skipper MS Dhoni arrived to lend support.
Williamson acknowledged the importance of steadily building the innings. With the Test series up next, he said on Sunday: “It’s great to be spending time in the middle against the opposition that you are going to be up against. I’m chipping away which is nice. We are playing roles so that the team gets into positions to win matches,”
Dhoni admitted losing wickets early was affecting the momentum of the innings, and not allowing India batsmen to resort to power-hitting later on. With only four fielders allowed outside the circle, only three in the batting Powerplay overs, not having wickets in hand is a big handicap while setting a score.
With Cheteshwar Pujara, a perfect anchor, not in the ODI scheme, India will have to rethink their all-or-nothing approach if they want to be a big hit in the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in a year’s time.
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