At the end of the first day of the first test between India and hosts New Zealand, the latter surely look to have the upper hand. It is said that tests are in a way the most exhilarating form of the game considering the changes that can happen in each session and so it is hard and also, perhaps, foolish to predict who will win a test judging from the way a single day has gone. Still, it has to be said that the Kiwis have made the perfect start to winning the test by dominating the first day.
Strategy and team composition: From the point of view of strategy, Dhoni did the right thing by choosing to bowl first on helpful conditions for seamers. However, one feels that he could have been a little braver with the team composition. He could jolly well have chosen Ashwin as the no.7 batsman and picked Ishwar Pandey, who has been in good form, instead of Ravindra Jadeja. That would have given him an additional option and thus a more effective bowling unit.
In fact, Ashwin has all the attributes to be a number 7 in tests for India. He is a good batsman, who has a compact defense and with some time and faith in him can play long innings more often than not. His style of slow and loopy spin bowling is also better suited to overseas pitches where, more often than not, you need to deceive batsmen in the air than off the pitch, which mostly does not offer much in terms of turn.
Jadeja’s brand of wicket-to-wicket spin bowling is more suited to one day games and tests on Indian pitches where all you need to do is put the ball in the right areas. New Zealand, on the other hand, did the right thing by opting to go with the same team that won the series against Windies.
Performance so far in match: Till now, the bowlers have not done their job, which is evident from the scoreline. While Shami was economical he was lacking the penetration that has been the hallmark of his bowling of late, Zaheer did pick up 2 wickets but gave away 98 runs from 23 overs. Ishant, bowling at first change as usual, was the pick of the bowlers with 2 for 62 from his 21 overs. He was able to both restrict the run rate and get wickets. Coming back from being dropped during the ODIs and a lackluster performance in the tour game, his performance was worth a lot of praise.
Jadeja was a major disappointment. He conceded 81 from 20 overs and did not pick a single wicket. It was perhaps his failure to offer the necessary control that had Dhoni turn to Kohli and Rohit Sharma for a couple of overs – it was not that the Indian skipper had any other option. Perhaps, it would have helped him if Yuvraj Singh was performing well. After all, apart from his batting and fielding, Yuvi is also a very reliable left arm spinner at the international level.
Fielding was also shambolic as can be gauged from the words of Sunil Gavaskar who stated in clear terms that the Indian fielders were not at par with international standards and were the main culprits on the first day. The Indian fielders dropped 4 catches on either side of the lunch. No wonder, the Kiwis ran up such a huge score on the first day!
The performance on the first day was shambolic to say the least, considering the sporting conditions but that does not mean that the team would not be able to make a comeback on the second day. The Indian team has performed well in such situations previously and there is a distinct possibility that it could do so again, in this test as well!