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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

Cricket

Indian batsmen need to find their feet against bounce
N Ananthanarayanan, Hindustan Times
Hamilton, January 21, 2014
First Published: 11:46 IST(21/1/2014)
Last Updated: 12:19 IST(21/1/2014)
(L to R) Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have all given up their wickets to unsteady shots off bouncers. (Agencies Photo)

Before India landed in New Zealand, it seemed the mind games were being played between the Kiwi coach, Mike Hesson, and officials of the match venues. Hesson had insisted that the pitches to allow his fast bowlers to attack the Indian batsmen and should not be friendly surfaces where the visitors make merry.

The McLean Park pitch in Napier was hard and afforded bounce, but it was also a surface where if a batsman got set he can score freely.

And India's loss has clearly left the trio of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina under pressure. Will all the three playing injudicious shots to short-pitched deliveries, dismissed playing the pull shot, the pressure would clearly be on them.

Curbing natural game
And it has also given skipper MS Dhoni a headache as all the planning before the series were nullified as India came under pressure with the loss of early wickets.

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After the match, Dhoni argued that batsmen will have to play shots at some point with New Zealand picking four pacers. But he would be the first to know that teams would look to exploit this weakness when India tour, and New Zealand and Australia, co-hosts of next year's World Cup, are unlikely to do any favour and will look to produce hard pitches where the horizontal shots will make the difference between victory and defeat.

Take the case of Shikhar Dhawan. When he scored his sensational century on Test debut against Australia in Mohali early last year, he did not play a shot in the air until he had completed the fastest century by a debutant.

While he did play some impressive pulls and cut during his fine run in last year's Champions Trophy victory, the left-hander's eagerness to dominate has been exploited.

In Napier, he had settled down and Virat Kohli had made a solid start when Shikhar selfdestructed, top-edging a pull. Corey Anderson had been testing him and was thrilled the mistake did come. South Africa quick Morne Morkel had done the same in the Johannesburg ODI.

Losing the plot
Rohit Sharma, on a high after centuries in his first two Tests against West Indies, has also looked shaky. After his ordinary run in South Africa, he was expected to get things right first up in New Zealand.

At the team nets, there was plenty of focus on hitting the pull, and the focus was on providing the three batsmen with all practice. He failed to rotate the strike and then hooked Mitchell McClenaghan down deep squareleg's throat.

Raina's fraility against the one targetting his rib cage is only too well known and he was again unconvincing. And his spot appears to be most in danger what with Ambati Rayudu waiting in the wings. 'Bounce them out' has already become the slogan for experts backing the Kiwis.

Before leaving on the tour, Dhoni had spoken about Indian pacers not being used to hitting the deck.

But he had countered questions about Indian batsmen's struggles against rising deliveries saying they had handled it well in South Africa. But the poor execution first up here has given a huge advantage to the hosts.

The Hamilton pitch for Wednesday's second ODI could play a tad slower thus providing the batsmen some relief. But with the horizontal shots being the bread and butter for batsmen in these parts, it is an aspect that threatens to derail their ambition to become consistent overseas.


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