After somehow taking the third ODI to the tie, India miserably lost the next two and gifted the Series to the Kiwis 4-0. In a post-match interview, MS Dhoni talked only about his batsmen passing through a bad patch, as if everything else was OK with the team. In every ODI, except the 4th, Dhoni persisted with chasing the score and failed every time. In every match, the clueless Indian bowlers were hammered to the hilt. The bowling, which is really the bane of Indian team’s current performance, could only find a passing mention in Dhoni’s post-series analysis. To some extent, only Jadeja and Ashwin could make any impression, if at all, on the Kiwi batsmen. It was nearly the same story in the last ODI series with South Africa. It is time India’ cricket managers woke up to the reality, that if measures are not taken, such off-color bowling will push India deeper into the mess. The only other option is to make India batsmen always coming to the rescue of wayward bowling, match after match. For India to return to the top spot once again, the batsmen should never fail. But this is a tall order.
In Wellington, India began well by taking two wickets for 41 by the thirteenth over. When further pressure was needed, the bowlers faced Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson. The duo has since become adept in strangling India’s below-par bowling. When Williamson fell as the third wicket, score had reached 193 and the game was yet to reach the 40th over. The two Kiwi batsmen, who realized 152 runs for third wicket, had also taken their series tally of partnership to 463. As a matter of fact, despite some initial fire, no Indian bowler could obtain any purchase from the pitch, which was capable of offering something to them. It was the slowest of all outfields, where India had played thus far, but the bowlers indulged in needless adventurism. In addition, it was difficult to bowl against the caliber of Williamson and Taylor. Incidentally, Kane Williamson became only the second man in ODI history to score 50+ runs in every game of a 5-match ODI series. With New Zealand’s batsmen dominating the attack, India’s opening trio of Mohd. Shami, Varun Aaron and Bhuvi Kumar collectively conceded a whopping 169, in 28 overs between themselves. Even Jadeja and Ashwin proved expensive at Wellington, yielding 91 runs in their combined 15 overs. The only bowler, who escaped punishment, was part-timer Virat Kohli, whose 7 overs accounted for 36 runs, at a reasonably restrictive average. At death, Brendon McCullum made 23 in 18 balls and Jimmy Neesham produced a 19-ball-34 run cameo. Dhoni’s men had to chase a 304-run target.
But the captain’s obsession with chasing, in preference to setting targets, fell flat in the initial overs itself. Rohit Sharma took 13 balls to score 4 runs and Dhawan’s 9 consumed 28. When Rahane fell as the third wicket, after scoring 2 in 10 balls, India had only managed 30 runs in the 14th over. A successful chase does not begin in such a fashion. If Kohli had also not scored, India’s plight would have been a hell of a lot worse. It will be injudicious to take the credit away from the Kiwi Bowlers, who did not offer any scoring opportunities to the Indians. While Mills and McClenaghan bowled a tight length, the surprise packet was debutant Matt Henry. He couldn’t have asked for a better debut, which, to a large extent, suffocated India’s batsmen. Henry accounted for the first three wickets, before making it 4/38 for himself, when he also took the wicket of Bhuvi Kumar in the closing stages of the match. Earlier the batsmen progressed by fits and start, with only Kohli standing apart. When Kohli got out at the score of 82 off 78 balls, India had crawled to 145/5 in the 37th over. An elementary mathematical subtraction can reveal the true chasing capability of India’s other top order batsmen, who fell before Kohli. The other successful batsmen, who offered resistance, were Dhoni, taking 72 balls for his labored 47 and Rayudu, whose 20 consumed 40 balls. Interestingly, India’s best rate of scoring came from the least expected quarter, with Bhuvaneshwar Kumar making 20 in 25 balls and Mohd. Shami hitting an unbeaten 14 in 15, which also included a six. The entire team folded for 216 in 50th over to allow the Kiwis to win with consummate ease.
India’s pathetic blanking out should be a serious cause of concern for Indian cricket, especially with the world cup 2015, not very far away. So long as India’s batsmen show top form, the incompetence of the bowlers can be camouflaged. However, the terrible losses in South Africa and New Zealand, where even the batting was substandard, exposed the bowlers completely. It will require a genuine solution, should India aim to return to the top-ranked ODI nation once again. In South Africa, Indian batting was done in by Steyn, Tsotsobe, Morkel Mclaren and Philander. In New Zealand, India’s batsmen were badly shackled by Mills, McClenaghan, Anderson, Neesham, Nathan McCullum and Henry.
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