During the 1999 World Cup game against South Africa, Steve Waugh famously told Herschelle Gibbs that he had dropped the World Cup. The words turned out to be prophetic and Australia went on to win the match, tied the game against South Africa in the famous semi-final, and then defeated a wobbly Pakistan in the final to clinch the World Cup trophy. New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum didn’t say anything as dramatic even after being dropped twice in Wellington, but it was clear that by putting him down, India had handed over the series to New Zealand, one which they should have drawn.
Even though all credit must be given to McCullum and BJ Watling and later debutant James Neesham for the manner in which they thwarted the Indians after being completely on the back foot, it has to be said that India’s complacency cost them in a big manner. Having put up a big score after having dismissed New Zealand cheaply in the first innings, the match was completely in India’s grasp. They just needed to bowl decently to wrap up the Test, Instead, their bowling performance was insipid and Dhoni’s captaincy far from inspirational as it so often has been the case away from home.
Towards the end of day three all India needed were a couple of wickets to get into the New Zealand tail. But, they couldn’t get through the defences of McCullum and Watling. It was one thing that they couldn’t dismiss the New Zealand duo, but was what even more worrying was that they never looked like getting the two out at any stage during the partnership. Ishant Sharma, who had bowled so brilliantly well in the first innings, was handled with utter ease, and was so frustrated that he was allegedly caught abusing Zaheer Khan on the stump mic.
While on the topic of Zaheer, he did end up with a five-wicket haul after many years, but his effectiveness was reduced significantly as the overs progressed. India definitely must be extremely worried with the inconsistency in their bowling, which is one of the main reasons they haven’t won a Test away from home in 14 attempts. Mohammed Shami showed some promise in the first innings, but like the rest, even he failed to make an impression against McCullum and Watling. The decision to play Ravindra Jadeja ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin also did not make much of a difference.
If there were a few positives of India from the match, it was mostly with the bat. Shikhar Dhawan continued his comeback to form with another impressive knock while Ajinkya Rahane almost won the game for India with his maiden hundred. Virat Kohli’s aggressive ton then enabled India to save the Test which, at one point of time, seemed theirs for the taking. But, the negatives definitely outdid the gains. Rohit Sharma’s poor form continued while Murali Vijay did not do his chances much good. The time has come for some hard introspection.
--By A Cricket Analyst