The 3rd one day international between India and New Zealand was among the finest in recent memory. Both the captains, MS Dhoni and Brendon McCullum, agreed as did all the commentators and experts who watched the game. For the audience it was an exceptional run feast that also saw the fall of 19 wickets – indeed the game showcased the best of each and every aspect of cricket. However, crux of the matter is that India lost out on an opportunity to come back into the series. Thanks to the tie it is not yet out of the series as such, which implies that it could still win the final couple of games and square it.
Now, we will try and analyze the reasons where India may have fallen off the radar:
Strategy: Once again Dhoni stuck to his guns and opted to field first in spite of knowing that his openers were out of form. It would have been appreciable if Dhoni had changed the opening combination but he desisted from such a move as well. All this meant that there was a repetition of the first 2 matches – faced with a huge target the out-of-form openers were unable to get going and without the good start there was too much pressure on the lower middle order.
Batting: Even though the scorecard may suggest otherwise, the Kiwis were slightly better with the bat than their much celebrated Indian counterparts. Guptill compiled a splendid century and was ably assisted, first, by Kane Williamson and later on by Luke Ronchi and Tim Southee. In comparison, there were 3 fifties but not the big innings that you need in order to overhaul targets in excess of 300 runs. Perhaps, if the Indian batters are allowed to do their work without the worries of chasing down a total, maybe the team will be benefitted.
Bowling: This has been the bane of the Indian team throughout the last couple of series. The bowlers, especially the quicker ones, have been leaking too many runs and have failed to bowl as a cohesive unit. In this match, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled well to concede only 48 runs from 9 overs and also pick up a wicket, Aaron and Shami were expensive. While Aaron can argue that he was coming back from a 2 year layoff, Shami would be really disappointed with the 84 runs he handed out in his full spell.
The spinners bowled exceptionally, giving away only 94 runs in their 20 overs and picking 3 wickets in all. They offered the control and penetration that Dhoni would have been hoping for.
What can the team do now: Dhoni is in an unenviable position right now! With the series gone he may be tempted to bring in the newer players like Rayudu, Binny, Pandey and Amit Mishra. However, the team also has the chance of squaring the series and right now may not be the best moment to blood in new players, until and unless the situation calls for such a decision. This is applicable in spite of the fact that some of the players, especially the openers, are not in form. Dhoni needs to maintain a balance between being smart and also think quickly so that India can win the last 2 matches and regain its number one spot in ODIs.