CHENNAI: A 3-0 whitewash. Such margins are not always taken seriously. Especially when it comes in an inconsequential series, which few will remember three months down the line. But there is enough for India to wake up in a format where they seem to be the sleeping giants.
This might not call for panic buttons to be pressed, for India were without two regular openers who are arguably the best in the world, while Virat Kohli had an indifferent series. If one includes the T20s, the captain recorded just one fifty-plus score in eight limited-over innings on this tour. The other most precious asset — Jasprit Bumrah — went wicketless in three ODIs. With two potent weapons not firing, problems were compounded by sloppy fielding and some poor bowling by the second-rung of pacers.
Kohli, however, doesn’t feel everything went wrong. “The games were not as bad as the scoreline suggests. It boils down to the chances that we didn’t grab. With the ball, we were not able to make breakthroughs. We were not at all good on the field. We didn’t play so bad, but when you don’t grab chances, you don’t deserve to win. New Zealand played with more intensity. We didn’t show enough composure,” Kohli said in Mt Maunganui on Tuesday.
But there are reasons to worry. This defeat comes against a New Zealand side that is missing two of their best pacers in Trent Boult and Matt Henry. Even six months after the World Cup, India are still a long way away from finding their best combination and continue to invest in resources that are not going to help them in the not-so-distant future. With T20 World Cups slated in 2020 and 2021, India’s focus will be on the shortest format and if they sleep through their plans for ODIs, they will lose valuable time while rebuilding for the 2023 World Cup.
Apart from finding a reliable No 5 in KL Rahul, who has also given them the option of playing an extra batsman thanks to his reliable show behind the stumps, and the emergence of Shreyas Iyer at No 4, there is little to take home. For a side that will enter a rebuilding phase soon after a new-look selection panel takes charge, these are encouraging signs. May be this series acted as an audition of sorts where some players dropped themselves with their performances.
Next up in this format is a rather meaningless three-match series against South Africa at home in March. If things go as planned, the new selection panel will pick the squads and given his recent outings, Kedar Jadhav’s run with the national side is likely to end. With fitness concerns continuing with Hardik Pandya and Shivam Dube not making a convincing case for himself, India might go back to Vijay Shankar.
These aside, what will concern India is the bowling unit. Unlike in Tests, the team has not seen the back-ups step up. Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini had an opportunity to show they can be counted upon, but they seldom bowled with the assurance that someone like Deepak Chahar showed. The spinners, too, didn’t have a good outing. Over to new selection panel.
India: Shaw (run out) 40, Agarwal b Jamieson 1, Kohli c Jamieson b Bennett 9, Iyer c De Grandhomme b Neesham 62, Rahul c Jamieson b Bennett 112, Pandey c Santner b Bennett 42, Thakur c De Grandhomme b Bennett 7, Jadeja (not out) 8, Saini (not out) 8. Extras (b1, w6) 7. Total (7 wickets, 50 ovs) 296. FoW: 1-8, 2-32, 3-62, 4-162, 5-269, 6-269, 7-280. Bowling: Southee 9-0-59-0, Jamieson 10-0-53-1, Bennett 10-1-64-4, De Grandhomme 3-0-10-0, Neesham 8-0-50-1, Santner 10-0-59-0.
New Zealand: Guptill b Chahal 66, Nicholls
C Rahul b Thakur 80, Williamson c Agawal
b Chahal 22, Taylor c Kohli b Jadeja 12,
Latham (not out) 32, Neesham c Kohli b
Chahal 19, De Grandhomme (not out) 58.
Extras (b1, lb2, w6, nb2) 11. Total (5 wickets,
47.1 ovs) 300. FoW: 1-106, 2-159, 3-186, 4-189, 5-220. Bowling: Bumrah 10-0-50-0, Saini 8-0-68-0, Chahal 10-1-47-3, Thakur 9.1-0-87-1, Jadeja 10-0-45-1.