India series a test for Black Caps and play on fans’ nerves

India series a test for Black Caps and play on fans’ nerves

Clay Wilson
Auckland, January 25, 2020

Black Caps Captain Kane Williamson and Indian skipper Virat Kohli with the trophy for their T20 series in New Zealand (Photo: Photosport)

For the Black Caps, India’s six-week stay on Kiwi shores might have nothing to do with proving anything to themselves.

The tour, though, does present the New Zealand side a chance to show something to their international cricket rivals, and a fanbase which has grown considerably during the past few years.

A thumping 3-0 Test series loss in Australia could well just be the product of three below par performances against a good team who rarely fail to dominate on home turf.

They aren’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, to suffer that fate across the Tasman.

Australian supremacy

But such was the one-sided nature of the matches, a positive response in matches across all formats against India seems to have taken on extra importance.

As let-downs go when it comes to Kiwi teams or athletes (think expectation and anticipation versus performance and results), there aren’t too many bigger examples of recent times.

Not on the level of the All Blacks’ knockout match capitulations against France at the 1999 and 2007 Rugby World Cups but, in some ways, on a par or perhaps worse than the same team’s semi-final exit in Japan three months ago.

Granted, few probably expected the Black Caps to go to Australia and win that Test series.

Australia came in having retained the Ashes in England and thrashed Pakistan 2-0 at home.

With the sandpaper bans over for star batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner, and a potent pace attack hitting their stride, New Zealand’s task was always going to be a stern one.

Stand-in Captain Tom Latham leads the Black Caps off the Sydney Cricket Grounds (Photo for Photosport by Andrew Cornaga)

Reasons for optimism

But New Zealand had reasons of their own to be optimistic.

A hard-earned Test ranking of No 2, thanks to several years of consistently good results, several batsmen and bowlers in the top echelon of the Test rankings and the momentum of a fairy-tale run to the final of the 50-over World Cup.

“New Zealand are the second-best team in the world,” Australian captain Tim Paine said heading into the first Test.

“They have some world-class players throughout their line-up and we know New Zealand teams have always been really tight, well-planned teams and very difficult to beat.”

What followed clearly didn’t reflect what, at the time, was a more than sensible statement.

Having returned to New Zealand to rest their legs and lick their wounds, all is far from lost for the Black Caps.

Opportunity to restore

The arrival of India is an opportunity to restore a positive feeling the team had continually enhanced for a prolonged period prior to Australia.

The Virat Kohli-led side are not only the world’s top-ranked Test team and second-ranked one-day outfit, they are unbeaten across their last five T20 international series.

A team littered with talent, who romped to a 4-1 one-day series victory during their trip to New Zealand last summer.

Throw in their impressive 2-1 one-day series win at home against Australia last week and the merits of a good overall display against India are plain to see.

Friday night’s opening T20 in Auckland resulted in a win to the visitors by six wickets but it certainly wasn’t all bad news for the Black Caps.

A decent score of more than 200 batting first, with fifties for Colin Munro, Ross Taylor and captain Kane Williamson.

The latter, a blistering 51 off 26 from the skipper, of particular note after he managed just 57 runs from four innings in Australia.

The signs are there for a very competitive T20 series.

If that eventuates, and rolls into the one-day and Test series to follow, the quality India possess across all three formats will ensure that has been well and truly achieved.

Clay Wilson is a Sports Reporter at Radio New Zealand. The above story and pictures have been published under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

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