Indian cricket can’t afford to forget New Zealand humiliation

Sports News

Shared News| March 3, 2020 8:08:27 am
Virat Kohli with Ross Taylor after the match (Source: Reuters)

Indian cricket needs to remember this 2-0 whitewash in New Zealand. Sweeping it under the IPL carpet that starts in less than a month, would be outrageous.

Last year after winning the home series 3-0 against South Africa, coach Ravi Shastri had said: Pitch ko nikaalo game se, bhaad mein gaya pitch. 20 wicket nikaalne hain. (The pitch factor needs to be removed from the game. To hell with pitches, we need to take 20 wickets). Be it Johannesburg, India, Mumbai, Delhi, Auckland, where ever it is, be it Melbourne.”

It’s one thing to say, “bhaad mein jaye pitch (to hell with pitch)”, but when the ball moves at pace, Indian batsmen can’t bat irrespective of their reputation. India lost the Christchurch Test inside eight sessions. When Bangladesh had suffered similar humiliation in the pink-ball Test at Eden Gardens, we questioned their long-form mettle. India on the green pitches in New Zealand looked like a fish out of water. This was India’s third away series defeat against stronger opponents in the last two years. A meek surrender here had been preceded by a 2-1 loss in South Africa and a 4-1 hiding in England.

That the third day pitch at Hagley Oval didn’t play too badly was attested by the fact that the Kiwis romped to their victory target of 132 in 36 overs, losing only three wickets. Before that India’s second innings had folded up for 124 – seven single-digit scores in that scorecard. The 2-0 whitewash in the Test series on the heels of a 3-0 hammering in the ODIs should serve as a rude awakening for Indian cricket. Players’ performances from here on should be put in perspective. For example, every time Prithvi Shaw hits a 90-metre six in the IPL, we must remember that the young opener needs serious improvement against the short ball before he can be considered a proper batsman. Every time Rishabh Pant wows his Delhi Capitals fans, we should keep in mind that just flamboyance doesn’t a top cricketer make.

India’s next Test series is in Australia later this year. If Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood have watched India’s batting in New Zealand, they would be licking their lips. And this time, the Aussies would be full-strength, not a second-string side that had lost a home Test series to India in 2018-19. Unless Indian cricket learns from this humiliation, the team would continue to be paper tigers overseas. And to learn from this, the team management needs to embrace humility.

Only two batsmen have reached three figures in two Tests, four innings combined, in New Zealand – Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara. Virat Kohli returned with 38 runs from four innings. Team selections – Pant over Wriddhiman Saha and not playing Ravindra Jadeja in the first Test – defied logic. Green-tops and the New Zealand pace attack sucked the Indian team’s swagger dry. The BCCI president Sourav Ganguly is a winner, someone who taught India to do well overseas consistently when he was the captain. It’s high time he acts in earnest.

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