Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (R) attends a press conference in New Zealand. (AFP Photo)
Keeping the shape is a football term, where weaker teams brace themselves from being blown away by their stronger rivals. India may have been the No 1 team going into second ODI against New Zealand, but it is the visitors who look every bit out of shape after a second defeat.
Whenever India lose, skipper MS Dhoni tries to soften the blow by breaking down the match, simply projecting what happened without spelling out specifics in terms of the remedial measures required; some sort of an effort to look at the big picture but not necessarily the real one.
But on Wednesday, after India's fourth straight overseas defeat, he hinted his patience was running thin.
It is clear the culprits are both openers as well as Suresh Raina, R Ashwin and Ishant Sharma. None of them have shown signs of turning their personal form around.
"We have to change a few things," Dhoni admitted after the 15-run loss under the Duckworth-Lewis method at Seddon Park. "A few things have not gone our way," he said.
Two of those things are openers, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. They look out of sorts, the loss of confidence is evident. The clumsy manner in which they have tried to hit out of trouble has only pushed the team into a corner. Dhoni wasn't amused by their lack of commitment against an impressive Kiwi pace attack.
"The pitch was slightly two-paced after the rain. The openers should have carried on a bit longer. They should have taken the pressure off the middle order."
The duo has not performed since South Africa, and Dhoni's decision to chase in both matches has only compounded the problem. With only Ambati Rayudu the specialist batsman in the bench, batting options are few. And Dhoni backed Raina, although he was livid after the left-hander holed out with victory hopes still alive. Raina, once a prospect at No 4, batted at No 6.
It is time the batsmen other than Virat Kohli and to some extent Ajinkya Rahane buckled down and respected the challenging conditions. Dhoni said when their natural game does not work, batsmen tend to worry too much about their reputation. "With more games they will back themselves and think what their benchmark should be."
By contrast, the home team are doing things the conventional way. New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum says his priority is to take wickets to tame the strong Indian batting unit and the foundation laid by Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor has allowed the likes of Corey Anderson to launch into the bowling in the later stages.
India need to find a new shape if they are to bounce back on this tour.