India appear to have sorted out batting, bowling slots

January 27 2019

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Five years ago India played both their top spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, in all five One-Day Internationals (ODI) in New Zealand and their cumulative tally of wickets was five, the off-spinner getting one and the left-armer four.


India lost the series 0-4 and the third game was tied. Ironically, Ashwin (65) and Jadeja (66) featured in a rearguard action with the bat to save the day for the Indians and prevent a clean sweep.

What a turnaround this time! In the first two games, which India won comprehensively, the two wrist spinners, Kuldeep Yadav and Yazuvendra Chahal, claimed 12 wickets between them and the so-called back-up bowler Kedar Jadahv added two to the spin tally of 14. Ashwin is out of the squad while Jadeja is warming the bench.

Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep left the New Zealand batsmen guessing whether to play for an incoming ball or the one that leaves them. They could neither read his hand before the ball is delivered nor could they make out after it pitched. They looked dazed. He had four wickets each from the two matches, the opening match of the five-match series at Napier and the second at Mount Maunganui on Saturday.

Leg-spinner Chahal tied them up at the other end when the two spinners bowled in tandem, complimenting each other. His class could be noticed when he had Ross Taylor and Tom Latham caught and bowled in the first match.

It was Mahndra Singh Dhoni who introduced Jadhav as a bowler when he was captain and also gave the new ball to Hardik Pandya. On Saturday, he helped Jadhav get a wicket by superbly stumping Taylor. Jadhav's other wicket also came courtesy a spectacular catch by Kuldeep to dismiss Henry Nicholls at Napier.

The spin has created such an impact on the New Zealand batsmen that the Indians might be tempted to play Jadeja also in one of the remaining three games.

The chances of three spinners playing are remote, though, as Pandya will be available for selection in the third match after the silly ban imposed on him and Lokesh Rahul by the quarrelling members of the Committee of Administrators (CoA) was lifted.

Pandya's return to the side means the Kuldeep-Chahal pair will be in the eleven without upsetting the balance, even in the absence of skipper Virat Kohli who is returning home for a well-deserved rest after the third match, also at Mount Maunganui, on Monday. Rohit Sharma will captain the team in the last two ODIs and the three Twenty20s.

New Zealand knew it is difficult to beat India in their present form, but they did not expect to be rolled over in one-sided matches. In the first match they could not set a decent target and lost by eight wickets and in the second, 325 runs, considered par on a small ground with a fast outfield, proved far too many.

It is not that the Indians expected it to be so easy, but their bowlers made it look comfortable. Not only the spinners, even the two brainy fast bowlers - Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami - provided the early breakthroughs just as Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan made life difficult for the New Zealanders with their terrific starts. The attack looks so good because the pacers are taking wickets in their return spells.

Unlike Jaspirt Bumrah, who has been rested for this tour, Shami does not seem to mind bowling in the ODIs, despite bending his back as much as the other pacers did in Australia. One explanation for that could be that like Zaheer Khan he also would like to keep bowling to be in rhythm.

The batting is also getting sorted out. Ambati Rayudu, Dhoni and Jadhav seem to clearly understand their roles at 4-5-6 in the order and are playing to the plan. They all contributed in useful partnerships and playing around Dhoni, who himself is back in his batting flow, stroking freely.

Rohit Sharma (87) and Shikhar Dhawan (66) gave the kind of start they got used to of late and Kohli (43), Rayudu (47) and Dhoni (48 not out) made sure they shared productive partnerships to swell the total. It is clear that Dhoni needs to play as much cricket as possible before the World Cup. There has been a marked improvement in his timing of strokes from the first match he played in Australia.

After two matches, the New Zealanders are wondering what their best combination should be , after seeing their top-order batting collapse and their main bowlers failing to stop India's in-form batsmen. Surely, they are not as bad as they looked out in the park in the two matches.

India would like to kill the rubber before they go to play their last two games without Kohli at Wellington and Hamilton. 

(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at sveturi@gmail.com)

  • Source
  • IANS