Wellington taught India a few harsh lessons about facing New Zealand, a side that perhaps comes with a disclaimer: “this team can take the mickey out of the best.” It’s a warning you can ignore at your own peril. Many, captivated by their un-ignorable aura have suffered paying big costs.
England nearly got the heartache of a lifetime facing them in the Cricket World Cup 2019.
India, more recently, swallowed a bitter pill.
So the next one remains content at merely sticking with a common label that’s stuck for ages: cricket’s dark horses- maybe it would serve teams endlessly to remember that underneath the Black Caps, there are cerebral powers.
In a contest where only Agarwal and Williamson struck the fifties, the Kiwi top-scoring with a polished 89 off 153 balls, no Indian batsman, not even Kohli or Pujara lasted long enough to mend India’s ways.
Rahane, the understated deputy held the fort, displaying calm against an uncontrollable pair of Southee and Boult- 14 wickets for the duo.
He lasted for 199 minutes (in his 46), next best only to Williamson.
Agarwal- who made with 34 and 58- did far better than two of the most recognized names alongside him, his captain Kohli and format specialist Pujara collecting 21 and 22, respectively, from the Wellington drubbing.
So what did we have at the end of the day for a side that entered New Zealand at the back of a Test juggernaut, that crushed the likes of West Indies, South Africa, Bangladesh, and others?
Another overseas tour, but yet another familiar batting debacle.
This has been the story of Team India abroad for the past years now. Despite the loud trumpeting about being the best Indian cricket team ‘of all time’ by the coach, to being hailed as the best in the world by the captain himself, the batting failure was yet another reminder to the optimistic Indian fan that despite great inroads made by the bowling unit, it was batting that led India down.
Is this India’s Achilles heel where conditions conducive to swing bowling leave an undoubtedly prominent batting power gasping for answers?
One would argue that India were a bit hard done by the toss. Let’s not take that away.
But a similar score in the second innings when the pitch had eased out a bit and New Zealand’s composed reply to the Indian total courtesy of a gutsy performance by the lower order meant that it was yet another instance where the bowler’s failed to knock out the tail cheaply.
Another issue that has been a recurring theme overseas has been the selection.
The decision to drop a specialist wicket-keeper in favor of a batsman who can keep wickets was a blunder and Jadeja’s omission in favor of Ashwin was baffling considering that he averages nearly 50 with the bat in the last few years.
If India are to assert their supremacy in world cricket and overseas then they need to fix their consistent selection blunders and prepare well for seaming conditions well in advance.
Home wins and consistent failures abroad will only enhance their reputation as tigers at home and weaklings abroad.
But make no mistake. This still is a side that beat the Australians in Australia in 2018.
This still is the very team that won its first-ever Boxing Day Test- December 2018- by conquering the Australians through a 137-run win at the mecca of Australian cricket: the MCG.
But until and unless India storm to consistent winning ways, the tag of the “Best Test Team in the World” that’s stuck for a while now will continue to seem preposterous.