India vs New Zealand: Misfiring top-order batsmen, Jasprit Bumrah hurt India
It is the first time in 13 years that India have been whitewashed in a series involving three or more matches. The last time was in 2006, when India lost 0-4 against hosts South Africa.Updated: Feb 11, 2020 23:30 IST
In this era of the India cricket team’s domination, the 3-0 ODI series whitewash has come as a bolt from the blue. New Zealand proved on Tuesday their World Cup semi-final win over India last year was no fluke in an emphatic manner. It was not just about the scoreline; India were outplayed in almost every period of play. Virat Kohli’s team couldn’t chase 274 and couldn’t defend 347 and 296. It has been a stunning reversal of fortunes after India’s 5-0 win in the Twenty20 series with the Kiwis’ victory coming despite the absence of their talismanic batsman and skipper Kane Williamson in the first two games.
It is the first time in 13 years that India have been whitewashed in a series involving three or more matches. The last time was in 2006, when India lost 0-4 against hosts South Africa.
It has exposed shortcomings in the side. In batting, the team’s success in ODIs has been mainly built around their top three—Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli. With the two openers injured and Kohli not in his elements, India’s batting unit could never hit top gear.
What hurt the most was a lack of contribution from the skipper’s bat. He scored just one half-century, in the series opener. He was bowled through the gate in the second ODI and started in uncharacteristic fashion in the third, and in trying to be aggressive, he was out playing an upper cut. It could be attributed as the main reason for the loss as one of the top three usually wins India the game on individual brilliance. It was seen at the World Cup with Sharma smashing five hundreds and Dhawan scoring a match-winning century in the tough league game against Australia—an innings during which he suffered a hand injury to be sidelined.
In this series, replacements Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw, both making their ODI debut, were no match to the senior pair. Agarwal was out of depth against the moving ball and Shaw failed to convert starts.
While loopholes in the middle-order have been plugged with the emergence of Shreyas Iyer and the success of KL Rahul at No. 5, power-hitting remains a concern. The continued selection of Kedar Jadhav was baffling—he was dropped for the final ODI. For all their right picks, the selection committee must take the blame for this one. It was obvious during the World Cup when he lost his place in the playing XI that his role becomes limited when he is not used as a bowler.
Manish Pandey was asked to sit out despite his form in the T20s. He got a chance after the series was lost and in the inconsequential game he proved his usefulness with an innings of 42.
Former India captain and chief selector, Dilip Vengsarkar, blamed it on the constant changes made in the team. “The batting line-up is not settled since the World Cup. The team depends a lot on one or two players, which is not a good sign. Rahul has been made to play at No. 3, now he is batting at 5. Don’t know what Kedar is doing in the team? It looks an unsettled team. We have got good players who are not in the side. Don’t know why it was allowed to come to this stage. It is really baffling,” he said.
“The chopping and changing of the batting order has dented the confidence of players. It’s time BCCI president Sourav Ganguly stuck his neck out and called the shots. He has to get things in order if India are to do well in the Test series.”
THE BUMRAH PUZZLE
Most of all, the visitors were hurt by their strike bowler Jasprit Bumrah going wicketless. India have become so used to Bumrah providing regular breakthroughs the captain heavily depended on him for wickets. When they didn’t come, it proved disastrous for India. Bumrah was economical but not penetrative. He could be trying too hard or was undercooked after the long break due to back injury.
Kohli admitted it hurt India. “With the ball, we were not able to make breakthroughs; we were not at all good on the field. We haven’t played so badly but when you don’t grab those chances, you don’t deserve to win,” he said.
Former India pacer Madan Lal said it was tough to pinpoint the reason for Bumrah’s barren run, but said trying too hard can be counter-productive. “When you are not getting wickets, you try harder and harder; it’s important to focus on doing the basics well,” said the head of the new Cricket Advisory Committee that will meet this week to pick a fresh selection committee.
The other reason, the 1983 World Cup winner felt, could be a lack of support at the other end. “The bowling has to click as a unit, pressure has to be built from both ends. For the last two-three years, we’ve been winning because the bowling unit has been doing well.”
Bumrah’s pace partners Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini did more with the bat playing cameos than with the ball. On Tuesday, Saini’s figures read 8-0-68-0 (2wides, 2 no balls); Thakur’s returned 9.1-0-87-1 (4wides).
The Indian management rested Mohammad Shami to keep him fresh for the Test series
Starting on February 21, and it was clear Thakur and Saini have some distance to go before they can step into their shoes.
In New Zealand, extracting seam movement is more important than hitting the deck, advised Madan Lal. “The length has to be fuller, and we are not swinging the ball which is our strength.”