The fourth ODI between India and New Zealand, organized at Hamilton on January 28, saw the higher ranked Indian team lose by 7 wickets. While it is not usual to see the national team lose more often than win on overseas assignments, the manner in which the team failed to perform would have been disheartening for all concerned. What is more important in this context is the recent trend of losing a series whenever faced with seaming and bouncy conditions. It happened in South Africa, which supposedly had a much superior attack and happened in New Zealand as well. Any common Indian cricket fan would find it hard to digest considering the fact that the team won the one day series last time it was there.
The question here is that what went wrong?
Batting: As was the case in the previous matches, the batting failed to fire – especially the top order. The leading run scorer in the series for India, Virat Kohli, was unable to contribute in the opening position, where he probably played in the interest of the team and where he is clearly unaccustomed. The rest, including MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma with 79 each, tried hard and Jadeja provided the finishing touches with a 62 not out from 54 balls. New Zealand, on the other hand, were helped in their chase by Ross Taylor who cracked the ninth ton of his ODI career. Kane Williamson, once again, continued his consistent run in the series with a 60.
Bowling: This has been India’s bane on this tour. In case of any other team a total of 279 in New Zealand conditions would have been a challenging one but considering the present condition of Indian bowlers it was insufficient to say the least. The fast bowlers, so far, have been bowling far too short and not adhering to team plans according to Dhoni, who has even indicated that with the possible exception of Mohammad Shami he is not sure of the seamers that he would be taking for the World Cup. In this match too, the quicker bowlers were very expensive and even though Shami and Aaron picked up a wicket apiece they conceded the maximum runs. The spin twins – Ashwin and Jadeja – were assured in contrast and gave away very little.
New Zealand, on the other hand, was a little bit better with Southee bowling an exceptional spell of 2 for 36 from his ten overs. He was ably supported by Mills and Nathan McCullum. Williamson, an irregular bowler, picked a wicket as well.
The way ahead for Team India: Perhaps Joe Dawes, the fast bowling coach of India, needs to look into his wards and be harsher on them. Considering how the bowlers have done off late, the BCCI can think of someone like Wasim Akram or a well known specialist bowling coach with some international experience and success in order to replace the Australian. The World Cup is only a year away and now may be the perfect time to have a new name so that he can have the time to chart out a proper course. Dawes could be used as a developmental coach at the Under 19 level or for the A team. The senior team surely needs a fresh injection of ideas and guidance.
The bowlers, on their part, need to adhere to the basics and prepare themselves likewise. As international cricketers they have that responsibility. Dhoni could also think of resting Bhuvaneshwar and Shami for a match and bring back Ishant and give Ishwar Pandey a game on the tour. For the final match he should also trust Binny with a full spell so that he is prepared in future in case such an opportunity arises.
From a batting point of view Rahane could be asked to open in the final match with Rohit or Dhoni might even ask Ashwin to have a go at the top order. Ashwin has the technique and, right now the, confidence to execute this responsibility well. India has already lost the series – this situation calls for some out of the box thinking. The worst that can happen is that the team will lose again but on the other side of the spectrum the team could finally win a game as well!