CHENNAI: The format is different. Some players are different. And the focus for the series is different with a home World Cup ahead in less than a year. And yet, Indian cricket’s favourite word — intent — came to the fore as the men in blue suffered a seven-wicket defeat against New Zealand in the first ODI in Auckland on Friday.
That they scored 306/7 runs despite being 160/4 and went on to lose in 47.1 overs told the story. If that was not enough, Shreyas Iyer, who top-scored for India with a 76-ball 80, said after the match that it was commendable of them to get past the 300-run mark from where they were. And he is not far off. India’s No. 3, 6 and 7 combined to add 153 runs from 130 balls whereas, the openers — Shikhar Dhawan and Shubman Gill — scored 122 runs cumulatively from 144 balls.
Make no mistake, the conditions weren’t easy for them. The Indian openers were tested by a high-quality pace attack, with the seamers getting sufficient seam and swing on the new ball. And as the innings progressed, conditions got better, but one of the key factors that affected them was the lack of strike rotation from the opening duo. Dhawan and Gill had a dot-ball percentage of 59.74 and 58.46, respectively. Both of them struggled against Matt Henry, and when they caught up and registered their fifties, they were not able to convert it into a big score.
Suryakumar Yadav was out even before he got himself in, and Rishabh Pant struggled. Shreyas and Sanju Samson helped India revive before Washington Sundar took on the Kiwi bowlers in the last phase. Granted, Shreyas had his share of luck and despite his struggles against high pace, the Mumbai batter has continued to improvise and find ways to score runs.
With the ball, Shardul Thakur bowled beautifully with the new ball with very few wickets to show. However, how long before the fact that he has conceded more runs than any Indian pacer (6.21 RPO) since 2021 will come into focus is yet to be seen. India went in with just five bowlers which did not help their cause either, especially when one of their frontline pacers in Arshdeep Singh had a day to forget. The two bowlers who were impressive through the day despite the counter-attacking innings from Tom Latham were Washington and Umran Malik.
India played a XI that extended their batting to No. 8 and yet managed only a par score in a venue that has been a pro-chasing ground. That they have a problem of plenty and most players in the squad might have in the back of their minds that they are playing to secure a spot every time they go out only adds to it. The way things went down on Friday was eerily similar to how Meg Lanning’s Australia comfortably chased down 278 at the same ground against India in the 2022 Women’s ODI World Cup earlier this year.
They still have two more matches to go. As Shreyas said, they would want to go back, introspect and come back with new ideas in the next game. For there are quite a few spots up for debate, perhaps probably including the one who is leading the team in the series. And the only way to become a permanent fixture in this Indian team is to win matches for the team on a consistent basis.
Brief scores: India: 306/7 in 50 ovs (Shreyas 80, Dhawan 72, Gill 50; Ferguson 3/59, Southee 3/73) lost to New Zealand 309/3 in 47.1 ovs (Latham 145 n.o, Williamson 94 n.o; Umran 2/66).