The second test between India and New Zealand, staged at the Basin Reserve from 14-18 February 2014, Wellington went the same way as the first test with the exception of India eking out a draw and avoid the ignominy of a second defeat on the bounce to a team that is ranked supposedly lower to itself. Yet again, India had Kiwis on the ropes only to have them bounce back to a position from where they could have won the game.
Batting: When seen from the perspective of both the innings, India batted comparatively well than New Zealand. In the first innings New Zealand were restricted to a mere 192 with no batter going past the 50 run mark. Replying to the paltry total, India batted with authority to score 438 and notch up a 246 run lead. Rahane was the star with his first ever test century and was superbly aided by Dhawan who came close to a century yet again and the skipper MS Dhoni, who scored 68.
It was in the second dig, however, that the Kiwis took the match out of India’s grasp and ensured that they were in a position to force a win. Brendon McCullum, who had been in exceptional form in the first test, continued his glorious run here as well, with a career best innings of 302. BJ Watling scored the 3rd century of his test career and aided the captain to build up a mammoth partnership. Neesham also had the rare honor of scoring a century in his debut game. Together with his bowling in the first innings, he will be a welcome addition to the Kiwi assembly line of quick bowling allrounders. For India, Kohli scored a fantastic century in the second innings that ensured that the visitors did not lose the match.
Bowling: The Indian seamers continued their sterling display from the first game at Auckland. Once again Ishant Sharma bowled in a superlative fashion to pick up 6 wickets in an innings – he was ably supported by Shami with 4 wickets. Together they made short work of the Kiwi batting line up. In response the Kiwi seamers were not as effective and even though Wagner, Southee and Boult picked up 3 wickets apiece, they were expensive. Jimmy Neesham was pacy but finished with only one wicket.
In the second innings however Indian bowlers came away unstuck. Even though they got the first 4 wickets cheaply, dislodging the pair of McCullum and Watling proved to be beyond their capabilities. All the prominent Indian bowlers scored centuries yet again and it did not help that catches were grassed – McCullum’s drop, when he was on 2, proved to be costly. Neesham too piled on their misery with a quickish century. Armed with a huge target, it would have been expected that the Kiwis would have come hard at Indians in the second innings. While they did make some inroads with Southee picking up Vijay and Pujara and Boult picked up Dhawan, Kohli and Rohit were able to play out the remaining overs without much problem, which perhaps shows that the Kiwis were not exactly at their best either.
Where does India go from here?
India’s next assignment is against England at England where conditions and level of opponents will be similar. So, failure in New Zealand is not a positive sign at all. Here are a few areas where Dhoni needs to look at:
- He seriously needs to find a seam bowling allrounder like Rishi Dhawan, who can bat in the top 6 and also bowl 20 overs or more per innings. Dhawan has the qualities to be successful in international cricket. However, he needs to be given sufficient time to develop into one. Unfortunately the spin bowling and batting friendly culture of India implies that Dhawan may never even break into the Indian team. There isalso lack of long-term planning in case of such cricketers especially since captains in India are used to operating with spinners and are most comfortable when they are leading at home or similar conditions. If Dhawan does not catch the fancy of the team management it is highly likely that he will be discarded after a series or two. If not Dhawan then performers like Rasool or Jalaj Saxena could be considered. They will provide the side some much needed balance.
- He needs to seriously consider giving up his gloves and concentrate on batting and captaincy. His inclusion in the middle order will bolster the team. However, it is unlikely that such a situation will happen considering the fact that Dhoni has a pre-determined mindset and operates accordingly.
- He needs to find openers who have been scoring runs and leave out of form players like Vijay.
If not an allrounder, Dhoni should consider playing 5 specialist bowlers including ones who are good with the bat such as Ashwin and Jadeja in every test. He can leave out one batsman from the middle order and push himself up. This will ensure that he has many bowling options and can go for winning matches and picking wickets instead of having to resort to part timers.