Around the time the New Zealand innings touched the 30-over mark, skipper Virat Kohli was seen rubbing the ball vigorously on his trousers at mid-on as Umesh Yadav measured his run-up.
Kohli then crouched on one knee and rubbed it with greater force. He lobbed the ball to Mohammad Shami at mid-off who repeated the process. While giving the ball a rub is normal in the course of a match, the extra effort here was to ensure that India’s two pacers got reverse swing to break the Kane Williamson-Tom Latham partnership.
Normally, Kohli prefers to go into a Test with five bowlers to ensure he has a chance of claiming 20 wickets. But as he confessed on the eve of the first Test, he has learnt to become flexible.
To strengthen the batting line-up, he went with four bowlers in this game, which included two seamers.
On Friday, while struggling for a breakthrough, he gave the ball to opener Murali Vijay, who bowls off-spin. Vijay extracted some turn but bowled only one over.
Batting coach Sanjay Bangar was asked if India had done the right thing by dropping one bowler. Bangar laughed it off. “We have bowled just 45 overs and the bowlers have made a good effort. The game is only two-days-old and we did not have even six sessions of play. I don’t think that kind of thought crossed our mind,” he said.
Last year, during the Test series against South Africa, where the wickets were below par, India shifted from the five-bowler plan in the first Test to four bowlers and an all-rounder in the second. After that, they picked only four bowlers for the last two Tests as they packed the batting on wickets where runs were hard to score.
The strategy paid off then. But will these wickets be as bad as the ones during that series, and will the Kiwis wilt under pressure like the Proteas are questions to be asked.