The Indian cricket team has managed to maintain its recent trend of less than satisfactory performances in seaming and swinging conditions and lost the final match of the ODI series against New Zealand by 87 runs. Perhaps, it is always tough for any touring team to acclimatize itself to alien conditions but for a team that prides itself on being the best one day team in the world it is a tad depressing to lose to a team that prior to the same series was ranked at the 8th position. Now, let us try and look into the various areas where the Indian team fell short:
Batting: Traditionally, India’s strength has been its batting. However, on this series it has come a cropper with only Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni performing with some degree of consistency. In this match too, the openers struggled, which put a lot of pressure on the inexperienced middle order. The Kiwis, on the other hand, were helped by the exceptional form of Taylor and Williamson. Taylor scored the 10th ODI century of his career, capping off an exceptional series for him. Neesham, too, showed plenty of promise with a 34 from 19 balls.
Bowling: Perhaps the present form of the Kiwi bowling can be gauged from the fact that newcomer Matt Henry grabbed a 4 for in his very first outing for the national team. He was well supported by the wily Mills and part timer Williamson who each bagged a brace of wickets. Indian bowling remained uneconomical and non-penetrative as it has been so far in the series. The best bowler for India, from the point of view of economy, was Virat Kohli who bowled 7 overs for 36 and also picked up a wicket. This statistic, surely, does not bode well for the Indian team.
The normal reaction in such a situation would be to blame Dhoni but the fact remains that he is dealing with a completely inexperienced team – Kohli and Raina are the most established members of the team but both are yet to find their feet in test cricket, which says a lot. Duncan Fletcher, too, will be under the scanner but the fact remains that our cricketers are born and bred on flat tracks that have nothing to offer for any bowler and they are used to lording it over trundlers and spinners and, thus, considering themselves good enough. The real problem arises when they face situations where the bowlers have some leeway. Given their natural tendency to dominate it is hard for them to make the necessary adjustments to survive. A coach can only suggest changes but then the players have to decide by themselves. Considering the fact that Indians are big on playing their natural attacking game it would be unrealistic to expect them to calm down and adapt to situations. The selectors can also think of bringing back Gambhir or Yuvraj but the situation is that the skipper needs to be given the team he thinks is capable enough and at the present moment both the left handers do not enjoy that support. To add to this, they have not been performing too well in Ranji Trophy.
Plenty of people will also have been surprised by the decision to not pick Ishwar Pandey and Amit Mishra. Considering that this was a dead rubber and Indians would definitely play Shami and either one of Ashwin or Jadeja in the tests, these players could have been rested. Who knows – may be the team could have pulled off a win but then Dhoni has never been known to be flexible with his plans. It could also be that Dhoni is looking to use Pandey as a first change bowler in tests and thus wants him to remain a secret weapon.
One area that the board should definitely look into is the bowling coach. It is clear from the performance of the Indian bowlers that they need some guidance and that too from someone who has played international cricket and understands what it needs to be successful at that level. May be, the board could approach Srinath and Kumble to become fast and spin bowling coaches. All over the world successful former cricketers are performing these specialist jobs. The old adage that good cricketers do not make good coaches is passé now – there are plenty of people like Craig McDermott, Shane Bond, Waqar Younis, Aaqib Javed, Allan Donald, Chaminda Vaas, Otis Gibson and Heath Streak who have been successful international bowling coaches. If this area is neglected then it will really be impossible for Dhoni to retain the World Cup a year later in Australia and New Zealand.