The India tour of New Zealand started right with the high of emphatic 5-0 clean sweep victory over the hosts but the fortunes have quickly changed and the Indian team is in a slump right now. The men in blue went down three-nil in the ODI series and going by the result of the first test match, they are not faring well in the longest format of the game either.
The horrendous performance at Wellington raises serious eyebrows on whether the number one side in ICC rankings is really up for the challenges in the longest form of the game down under. The visitors were handed a drubbing by 10 wickets on the fourth day itself and more than the loss, it’s the manner in which the team gave up that has made fans trigger the panic alarm.
India under Kohli has lost Test series in South Africa and England too but the team competed tooth and nail in both the series which paid dividend with a miraculous series win against the Kangaroos but the team looked jaded and toothless in the first test match here.
The story of first test was similar to countless tests India play abroad. Put in to bat first in the overcast swinging conditions, batsmen were expected to face a stern test and as expected, they faltered and fell like a pack of cards. The fans glued to their Television sets here in the country who get up as early as 4 am in the morning whenever there is a test down under were in for another bout of disappointment. Prithvi Shaw, who was fast-tracked into the team after his ban ended looks like a walking chicken (Read: Wicket) for the Kiwi Pacers. The Mumbai lad’s defence has been breached in similar fashion on quite a few occasions. The high backlift of Prithvi makes him a swashbuckling player when he is in full song but it is his undoing at times too, which Tim Southee brilliantly exploited in the first innings and hit the timber with a peach of a delivery.
It seems like the bowlers have figured out more than one way to get the ex-under 19 captain out. Mayank Agarwal who had endured a tough period before the test match with a string of low runs across formats inspired some confidence with knocks of 38 and 58 but got out to nothing deliveries in both innings. The overseas conditions demand putting a price tag on the wicket which both the openers failed to do so.
What has really hurt India’s chances is the skipper Virat Kohli’s form which has taken a major dive in the last 20 odd innings. Kohli unarguably is the mainstay of the Indian team and when his form has been patchy, the going has been seemingly tough for India. Since smashing 593 runs during India’s 4-1 series defeat in England, Kohli has been struggling to perform away from home as evident by a solitary hundred in 14 innings. In 7 Tests since the England tour, Kohli has managed 439 runs at an average of 33 which includes one hundred and 3 fifties. Kohli’s 123 in Perth 2018 still remains his best effort in away Tests in the last 2 years. Throughout the ongoing New Zealand tour, Kohli has managed to score just a single fifty across 9 innings in all 3 international formats.
The old demons of not being able to polish off the tail have caught up with the team again. The Kiwis were tottering at 225 for 7 in the first innings but were let off and ended up with 348 runs and a massive first-innings lead of 183 runs which ultimately proved the difference. There can be lots of if’s and but’s in hindsight but it clearly looks that the team management does not have a clear vision about the composition of the playing eleven. Captain Virat Kohli surprised everyone with his selection decision, which has been a topic to discuss whenever India fields a team away from home. This time around, it was about Rishabh Pant playing ahead of Wriddhiman Saha after not playing even a game throughout the limited-overs leg of the tour. The left-hander was left out of the five T20 Internationals and three ODIs early on in the tour. While the likes of Sanju Samson and others got a chance in the dead rubbers, the team management did not give a chance to Pant which had raised doubts over his international career. The curious case of Rishabh Pant is a mystery for everybody around and the team management is not doing any favours to him or Saha (arguably the best wicketkeeper in the tests right now) by playing any one of the two seemingly on a lottery basis.
Just up and see Saha is left out. We have just told every young keeper in India not to bother becoming the best in the world behind the stumps and instead focus on getting a few more runs in front of them. Disappointed.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) February 21, 2020
The form of Jasprit Bumrah has also hurt the Indian cause. The Yorker-king was playing his first test watch after enduring a stress-fracture and was not certainly in his elements. The rhythm was missing and he failed to hit the spots consistently. One would want to believe it’s just a minor blip in the radar for a player of caliber like Bumrah who has the capability to turn any match on its head. R. Ashwin, whose overseas record does not inspire much confidence has his task cut out and it would need a monumental effort from his part to make amends in the next test.
India take on New Zealand in the second Test match in Christchurch from February 29 and it needs to be seen if the men in blue step up and silence all the critics going around .
Leave a Reply