It took an unexpected defeat at Hamilton — New Zealand chasing down their biggest target in the first of the three ODIs — for Virat Kohli to ruefully realise that sometimes results go your way, sometimes they don’t. That is what the West Indies and Bangladesh must also have felt after losing series they could have won in India.
Their captains may also agree with their Indian counterpart that "as long as you’re playing good cricket, and you’re in the game all the time, that’s what matters." All of them played good cricket, even if the results did not go their way. Both West Indies and Bangladesh can turn around and say they could have won the T20 series with a little luck and the Caribbeans the ODI series.
Naturally, the Black Caps would now say they did not carry the T20 baggage, referring to the 5-0 whitewash before the ODIs. If the New Zealanders think their bowlers did well to restrict India to 347 in 50 overs when they were looking at about 20 more, it gives a clear picture of the Seddon Park. One side of the ground is so small that any intelligent batsman can maneuver to clear the boundary with ease, just as Ross Taylor did during his rollicking century. Shreyas Iyer showed him the way with his hundred, though he did not deserve to be on the losing side.
Both Seddon Park and the venue for the next game in Auckland, Eden Park, are designed to cater to New Zealand’s most popular sport — rugby. For the uninitiated, they look like baseball fields more than cricket stadiums. So big totals are no big deal. As it is, run rates in all formats have gone up, thanks to the global T20 leagues. In Tests, scores upwards of 300-350 have become the norm, just like 300-plus in ODIs and 200-plus in T20s.
Big totals make matches exciting, but after a while the results become routine and monotonous. Even in shorter formats, fans would like to see bowlers get something to challenge the batsmen. Yes, chasing 350 odd can make a match that much more interesting, but smaller grounds rob it of a real battle between ball and bat. However, this should not take anything away from New Zealand’s remarkable chase, getting to the target with 11 balls to spare.
India will be facing similar conditions at Eden Park and there could be another big chase. They will have to win to keep the series alive, going to Mount Maunganui for the last game. New Zealand can now justifiably feel that they cast away the last three T20 matches from a position of winning comfortably, two of these resulting in super overs. Seldom does one come across a 5-0 drubbing in the shortest format in which any team can fancy its chances since it is a lottery.
Indians have no issues with the team composition except for in the spin department. Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav keep swapping the second spinner’s position, with Ravindra Jadeja getting in as all-rounder. They have sorted out their batting problems.
Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw did reasonably as openers in the first game and Iyer at No 4 looks solid yet free-stroking. KL Rahul appears to relish batting in any position, coming up with another dazzling innings at No 5. There is little scope for any change in the batting line-up unless Kohli is tempted to ask Rahul to open and get Manish Pandey in to get a good fielder to man a key position.
Actually, the bowlers have to readjust their line and length to make sure that batsmen do not tonk the ball as freely as they did in Hamilton. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami would have learnt their lessons.
In this T20 World Cup year, the Indians are well on course and they would like to maintain their unbeaten record in the Test Championship roster. New Zealand would like to clinch the ODI series to get into the Test series with some confidence. For India the stakes are high as the visiting side. Kohli knows winning overseas is what matters to his team.
(Views expressed are author’s personal. He can be reached at email@example.com)