Conquering New Zealand and England in Test cricket continues to remain elusive for India.
Despite top ratings, series wins and dominance against opposition teams at home and abroad, Indian Cricketers appear unable to battle the swing and pace of Kiwi and English bowlers on seamer friendly pitches.
The Indian team arrived in New Zealand with high morale and with great Test success over the past few years. Their batting dominance was on show in the T20 series, aided by some luck in the last three of the five-match series.
Struggles on the New Zealand pitch
The 5-0 T20 whitewash now seems a distant memory given the visitors’ struggles in the One Day International (ODI) and the on-going two-match Test series.
The start of the ODI series witnessed an unfortunate disruption that has since made India appear a radically different team.
Injuries to regular openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan forced a change at the top of the order. Talented youngster Prithvi Shaw and the gifted Mayank Agarwal were drafted into the squad, but both have failed to capitalise on the opportunities presented.
Whilst they have both managed had the odd half century, they have yet to show a good partnership that is crucial for an opening pair, especially at Test level.
Rahul and Shreyas consistent
The once-regular KL Rahul returned to the T20 side and, along with Shreyas Iyer, found his rhythm with the bat.
Shreyas and Rahul were the only batsmen who showed consistency in the ODI series.
Whilst Shreyas was never in contention for the longer form of the game, Rahul was unfortunate to miss out on the Test team make-up.
India may be regretting this omission, given Rahul’s current form.
This player availability and selection choice many have contributed to the drastic change in results for the Indian team.
The 2009 Tests
Their Test performance on this tour has been far below par, and agonisingly frustrating for Indian fans. India’s last Test series win here was in 2009 when opener Gautam Gambhir amassed 445 runs in the three-match series. India claimed that series 1-0. Gambhir’s consistency in opening stands with Virender Sehwag was a major factor for India’s success.
The pride of Indian cricket has been its batting strength.
They have failed to showcase this in three successive innings so far.
Test matches are generally won if the openers lay a platform.
Agarwal and Shaw have simply failed to do this.
In Wellington, India were put into bat but by the 18th over, India were three wickets down for 40 runs. They crumbled for a paltry 165.
Debutant Kyle Jamieson excelled with 4/39.
Captain Kane Williamson led the way with a masterful 89 to take New Zealand to 348.
Fighting a massive 183 run deficit, India managed to finish their second innings with a nine-run lead. Tim Southee and Trent Boult were brutal, amassing nine wickets between them.
It took India nine deliveries to succumb to one of their biggest defeats to New Zealand (by 10 wickets). Captain Virat Kohli, struggling to find form on the tour, didn’t make much of the loss.
Christchurch is currently hosting the second of the two-Test series. After his heroic debut in Wellington, Jamieson bettered his Wellington performance with a stunning 5-45 in the first innings at the Hagley Oval. Besides three half-centuries, India folded for a modest 242.
Shaw’s supremely talented colleague from the last Under 19 squad, Shubman Gill, has continued to carry drinks after failing to make the playing eleven again.
Gill has been in fine form, including in the warmup games with the India A team. Gill could have made a difference in middle order but what position to slot him in would have been the challenge for coach Ravi Shastri.
On August 1, 2020, Test cricket entered a new phase with the launch of the ICC World Test Championship. India are currently the top ranked team and New Zealand are at number four.
The likely series loss to New Zealand will hurt their ranking.
Ravi Nyayapati is our Sports Correspondent. The above Report was written to catch the printer’s deadline and hence does nor reflect the results of the Test Match.
- Captain Kane Williamson led the way with a masterful 89 to take New Zealand to 348 in the First Test (Photosport Picture from RNZ.
- Indian Skipper Virat Kohli speaking to the Blackcaps Trent Boult and Tim Southee at the Christchurch Test on February 29, 2020 (Twitter)