CHRISTCHURCH – A star-studded India was outplayed by seven wickets inside three days in the second Test against New Zealand here with the home team making a mockery of the visitors’ world no.1 status to complete a memorable series sweep.
New Zealand prevailed by seven wickets, chasing down a modest target of 132 in just 36 overs, after India’s second innings folded for 124 in less than an hour on the third day. India, perched at the top of the World Test Championships right now, were humiliated 0-2, found wanting yet again when up against high-quality seamers overseas.
“We accept it upfront and if we have to win away from home, we have to do that. No excuses, just learning moving forward. In Tests, we weren’t able to play the cricket we wanted to,” India skipper Virat Kohli said after the match.
Tom Latham (52 off 74 balls) and Tom Blundell (55 off 113 balls) had a good batting session as Mohammed Shami didn’t bowl post lunch due to a ball-impact injury while batting.
A solid 120 points took New Zealand’s tally to 180 even as India stayed on top with 360 points courtesy their series wins against the lowly West Indies, depleted South Africa and a below-par Bangladesh.
The feel good factor of a 5-0 T20 series victory seemed like ancient history as a dream start turned into a virtual nightmare for Kohli’s bunch that has always taken immense pride in performing well in overseas conditions.
However, a look at India’s overseas performance indicates that whenever the ball swings and seams, reputations end up in tatters. It happened in England in 2014 and 2018 and now New Zealand have exposed them one more time.
The main culprit was the batsmen, and Kohli had no qualms in admitting it.
“The batsmen didn’t do enough for the bowlers to try and attack. The bowling was good, I thought even in Wellington we bowled well. Sometimes if you bowl well and things don’t happen, you have to take it in your stride,” Kohli said.
More than the margin, the manner of surrender will come back to haunt the current Indian team, which leaves this part of the world with a lot of unanswered questions.
It’s not only about technique of some top players against the moving deliveries but also about their mindset when put under the pump.
There were only four half-centuries across four innings in this series with techniques of some of the players like Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal against seam and swing leaving a lot to be desired.
Skipper Kohli’s 38 runs in four innings was one of the biggest setbacks for the visitors in the series.
Prithvi Shaw is a work in progress when it comes to his decision-making on deliveries on the fourth stump and, of course, the short ball, which the Kiwis used liberally to get rid of him since the start of the practice games.
Kohli’s problems against the seaming deliveries resurfaced again during the series but there is little time to go back to the drawing board with a packed schedule for the remaining part of the year.
India will next play in seaming conditions in England in 2021 and hence some of the issues may just persist with no time in the interim for a course correction.
On Monday, there was another lower-order collapse as the last four wickets went for 34 runs, but lack of gumption from someone like Rishabh Pant, playing for his place in the side, was disheartening.
It was the pair of Tim Southee (3/36 in 11 overs) and Trent Boult (4/28 in 14 overs), which once again tormented the Indian batsmen, who were all at sea against quality bowling on a slightly challenging track.
In the morning, Hanuma Vihari (9) was caught down the leg-side off an innocuous Southee delivery.
On a track where it was next to impossible to defend, Pant was seen pushing and prodding defensively, something that’s not his natural game. The result was a half-hearted poke at an away going delivery that safely landed in the wicketkeeper’s gloves.
The much talked-about “intent” was completely missing in Pant’s game and his approach defied logic. Especially after coach Ravi Shastri spoke about how his aggressive batting scored over Wriddhiman Saha, but questions will certainly be asked on if scores of 19, 25, 12 and 4 justify his inclusion over a more accomplished stumper.
We were completely outplayed, can’t live in denial: Kohli
A disappointed Virat Kohli on Monday admitted that his side was “completely outplayed” by New Zealand in the two-Test series and they can’t live in denial about “not being brave enough” to counter adverse conditions.
The Indian batting was in complete shambles in the two-Test series and the skipper said that with a packed schedule, the team management will have to find solutions despite time constraints.
“Obviously quite disappointed with how we played in this series. I feel like we were completely outplayed in this series,” the Indian captain was honest and forthright in his assessment following the seven-wicket loss in the second Test here.
“We obviously didn’t play the kind of cricket we do as a team. The thing to take away from here is to not shy away from things that have gone wrong and instead address them straight up, and not be in denial,” he said.
Asked to point out what exactly went wrong, Kohli felt the outlook towards a series in adverse conditions was “not ideal”.
“I think the outlook as far as I am concerned, and as far as I saw things happening, was not ideal for us in this series. We were not positive enough. We were not brave enough in moments, which we have done in the past. Skills follow your mindset, simple as that.”
However, he didn’t like New Zealand being called India’s “bogey team”, having lost to the Black Caps in 2019 World Cup semifinal and two series in white and red ball formats.
“I am sure no one was saying that in first half of the tour,” he said referring to his team’s 5-0 win in the T20 series.
“You can’t just make a team a bogey team because of one Test series defeat and a semi-final loss. They played better cricket on that day, and in this Test series, and there is no shame in accepting that.
“We are not trying to create some controversy by tagging a team or naming a bogey team or something like that,” the skipper certainly wasn’t amused.
But does the team have enough time to iron out the flaws considering the amount of cricket it plays?.
“There are two ways to look at it. I would much rather be in the middle and try to correct those things rather than having too much time in between and waiting for a game to arrive so that you can figure out whether you have corrected it or not,” said Kohli.
“The advantage of playing a lot of cricket is that if you are working on something, you have many games to try and execute it straight up. It’s the way you look at it. As I said, it needs to be balanced. Neither can you over-think nor be in denial. It works differently for different people.”
Asked about specific mistakes that this team can rectify, Kohli said that clarity of mind is paramount.
“Something (clarity) we failed to do as a batting unit, and I truly believe that we made too much of the conditions from the first day onwards, of the first Test: overcast, a bit of dampness on the pitch we never spoke of these things before.
“If you’re not clear in your head then the feet don’t move, you’re not quite sure whether to play the shot or not, leave the ball or play the ball. I think these sort of things can creep in, and which have crept in our game in this series. It’s something we have recognised already,” he added.
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