Wankhede Stadium had a weary look as the Indian cricket team came cropper against a Kiwi side led by Kane Williamson. For the first time, the New Zealand side put heart and soul into this game and took an early lead in the three match series. From the practice game, they took the game rather seriously and that resulted in a stellar performance against capacity crowd on Sunday. The toss did not matter much as the Kohli led India side lost the openers before the score could touch 30 in 5.4 overs. Boult bolted the Indian batsmen to submission and the resultant spell saw the left-arm spinner capture 4 wickets for 35 runs in his quota of 10 overs. He made the batsmen work hard and at the end of 41st over India could score 200 runs for the loss of 5 wickets and in the next 9 overs only 79 runs could be added withe the loss of 3 more wickets. A score of 280 was not good enough on a slow wicket.
Tom Latham taught us a lesson with a fine exhibition of batting by scoring unbeaten 103 runs of 102 balls with 8 boundary hits and two sixes, whereas Taylor toiled for 95 of 100 balls and added 200 runs of 187 balls for the fourth wicket to take shin out of Indian bowling. When Taylor got out in the end, the win was assure for the Kiwi side and Nicholls stream rolled the ball to the boundary to record an emphatic win. On the other hand, Indian batting looked somewhat suspect from the very moment and the trend continued till the last. Only Virat Kohli helped himself to his 31st century in his 200th one day game but the 200 runs stand by Taylor and Tom Latham really tilted the scales in favour of the touring side. A sketchy innings by the skipper saw him scoring 121 of 125 balls and he failed to accelerate the scoring after achieving the landmark and holed out when 4 balls were left in the innings. Dhoni and Pandya could not hit out as expected and Dhoni took 42 balls for his 25, the slowest by an Indian batsman getting 25 plus runs after opting to bat first. Tom taught us a lesson or two while Taylor stitched India’s wounds with a steady innings.
Indian umpire CK Nandan failed to live up to his reputation as an International Umpire as we failed to judge an LBW decision. But for the referrals he almost broke the partnership rather early with a dubious decision. Directed bowling and substandard fielding all added to the woes of Indian side. The left right combination of the Kiwi side at the top and in the middle order saw the bowling standard touching to abysmal low. Indian bowlers were at sea when the strike was rotated with quick singles and the customary twos brought the New Zealand total touched striking distance of the target. Even super stars missed run out chances and helped the tourist to prolong their partnership. The headquarters of Indian cricket saw the Indian team wilt under pressure. Both Kedar Jhadav and Shikhar Dhawan were liabilities in the side and the absence of Rahane was felt.
The spin department lacked bite as Kuldeep Yadav was hit for boundaries with reverse sweep and Chahal bowled too many full tosses and helped the opponents to improve the scoring rate rather briskly after 40th over. Absence of Ashwin was felt as the bowling lacked penetration and there was no stopping of flow of runs towards the end. Hype on Hardik Pandya was exposed as he failed to keep the ball down in a competitive game like one day cricket. Both left hand bowlers Boult and Santner made the ball to talk to trouble the stroke filled Indian batsmen to commit maximum errors. Tom Latham won the man of the match for his lovely innings under adverse circumstances. Kohli’s 200th match record breaking 100 went in vain.
The team need couple of changes and need to include a regular batsman in place of Dhoni and Karthik can keep wickets for a change. Ashwin, who is 20 kms away trying his arm in bowling for Tamil Nadu at the nets can be pressed into the side to make the bowling strong and give the Indian team a fair chance of equalling the series 1-1. At present it is do or die situation as New Zealand is leading 1-0 in a 3 match series.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)