India vs New Zealand: Our batting looks unsettled on tour - Dilip Vengsarkar
More than the result, it’s the manner of India’s defeat in the first Test against New Zealand which has come as a surprise for experts and fans. Virat Kohli’s men were outplayed in all departments of the game in Wellington, suffering a 10-wicket drubbing in just over three days.
The batsmen looked clueless against crafty swing and seam bowling by New Zealand pacers to be dismissed for 165 and 191. It’s India’s fourth straight defeat on the tour, after the 3-0 rout in the ODI series. The lack of energy and intent is baffling. They were listless in the ODIs and it has continued in the longer version.
Only pacer Ishant Sharma and opener Mayank Agarwal, to some extent, came out with their reputations intact. Only Agarwal scored a fifty (58) in the game.
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Since Jasprit Bumrah made his international debut in early 2018, rarely has the India attack been upstaged in the manner the Trent Boult and Tim Southee pair did. The India seamers were simply unable to make use of the helpful conditions.
After the one-day series defeat, former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar had warned of the slide continuing in the Tests. For him, stability is missing in the team. “They have not allowed the team to settle down. The opening combination is not settled, and so is the middle-order,” said the former India chief selector.
After the defeat, Kohli urged his batsmen to come out with a positive intent. Vengsarkar pointed out to Chesteshwar Pujara’s batting. “He has scored a lot of runs, but he has to be able to rotate the strike, otherwise his batting partner will be in trouble as he will lose the rhythm being stranded at the other end for long periods. Pujara can’t get bogged down. Also, Ajinkya Rahane was not able to convert his starts,” Vengsarkar said. In the second innings, Pujara got 11 off 81 balls, Rahane 29 off 75 balls and Hanuma Vihari 15 off 79.
New Zealand will be even stronger in the second Test as their pace attack will be bolstered by the return of seasoned left-armer Neil Wagner, who missed the first game owing to the birth of his first child. It increases the possibility of the home team going in with a four-pronged pace attack in Christchurch.
The India batsmen coped poorly with the rising ball at Wellington. They allowed the Kiwis to build pressure. Wagner has been in excellent form and he will be a huge threat with his ability to generate disconcerting bounce.
Given Boult’s success against Kohli in the second innings—he nicked a bouncer to the ‘keeper—the India captain can expect more of it. His battle with Wagner will be keenly watched, especially after the bowler’s success against Steve Smith on New Zealand’s recent Test tour of Australia.
Vengsarkar, the former India No. 3 batsman, advised India to choose the safer option of leaving the ball, ducking or weaving out of the line. “You are never in control of the hook shot,” he said.
He also criticised India’s tactics of short-pitched bowling for the New Zealand lower order. “We allowed the game to get away after having New Zealand at 225/7 by bowling short. The New Zealand, Australia or England batsmen are not going to get out on our short bowling. They are used to it. Their lower order got the runs and took the score to 348.”
New Zealand coach, Gary Stead, has predicted the Christchurch wicket will also offer a lot of help to the quicks. “We will always consider that (four seamers plus Colin de Grandhomme) as an option after looking at the wicket. I don’t want to make assumptions, but yes, wicket at Hagley has a wee bit in it also,” said Stead, hinting at an all pace-attack for the second game starting on February 29. With Boult and Southee firing on all cylinders, and Wagner back, there is unlikely to be any respite for the India batsmen.