5 things we learnt about India from the first New Zealand Test match

James Ogden

India suffered their first loss in the Test Championship

When this Indian Test side is beaten by 10 wickets, it comes as a shock to everyone. Over the past 3 years, this side, under the astute leadership of Virat Kohli has become the most imposing unit in world cricket.

When such a team is thrashed inside 4 days by a New Zealand team coming off the back of a heavy defeat against Australia, many questions will be asked. With that in mind, here's five things we learnt about the Indian side from their defeat Wellington.

#1 Ishant Sharma is an all time great

Ishant Sharma

To start on a positive note, we must look at Ishant Sharma's excellent performance, where the paceman claimed a hard fought 5-wicket haul.

Since the start of 2018, the Delhi native has taken 71 wickets at an average of just 19. Combine this with the fact that he has taken 98 of his 297 Test wickets in India, where he average's an extremely decent 31, we see a bowler who is able to achieve greatness in all conditions.

Despite his career average of 32, Sharma has enjoyed huge success under Virat Kohli and has become an integral part of what is widely considered to be India's greatest fast bowling line-up. Indeed, his new found prowess was evident in India's triumph over Australia in the 2018-19 season, where in the three games he played Sharma picked up 11 wickets at an average of just 23.

At 31, India may well be able to enjoy a few more years of the tall paceman. If India are to continue to being a success in the red ball arena, and turn it around in the second Test against New Zealand, you would suspect Sharma will have to continue to play at the top of his game.

Note: All statistics as of February 27, 2020

#2 Prithvi Shaw needs to tighten up his defense

Prithvi Shaw

The talent Prithvi Shaw holds is undoubted. However, one thing that is also undoubted is that to be a success at the top of the order in Test cricket, you need to be sure of your defense.

Shaw's initial success came on the flat pitches of India against a sub-par West Indies side, but the recent Test underlined the fact that the young man has many aspects of his game which he must improve upon. Namely, his frantic and attacking nature against a moving ball, where his ultra-positive mindset and apparent lack of defensive technique saw him play two very uncomfortable innings in Wellington.

If Shaw is to be a mainstay of this Indian side for years to come, then it is surely an area he will have to improve. Luckily for the young man, Rohit Sharma is expected to return to the first XI upon his return from injury. This may give the opener some much needed time to work on his all-round game, not just his attacking flair.

#3 Bumrah is suffering his real first slump in form

Jasprit Bumrah

Since returning from a stress fracture of the lower back, which the quick bowler suffered before the South Africa series in September, Jasprit Bumrah has been a shadow of his former self.

In the 6 ODIs he has played since returning from injury, Bumrah has taken just one wicket for 287 runs, which is nowhere near good enough for one of the deadliest bowlers in world cricket. In the Wellington Test, Bumrah was also only able to claim a single wicket for 88 runs, and never really looked as threatening as the likes of Ishant Sharma, Trent Boult or Tim Southee.

However, after coming back from such an injury, it may just take the quick bowler some time to regain his form and along with it his bite and pace. Bumrah will undoubtedly still be a integral part of this immense bowling unit for many years to come, but for India's sake, they will hope his slump in form comes to its end in Christchurch's Hagley Oval.

#4 Vihari is yet to nail down his middle-order place

Hanuma Vihari

After 8 Test matches, scoring nearly 500 runs at an average of 37, many would say Hanuma Vihari has made a decent start to his Test career. However, his statistics are heavily skewed by two home Tests against the West Indies, where the middle batsmen scored over half of his Test runs and made his only century to date. If you look outside of those 2 Tests, you see a player whom averaged just 19 in 6 games, chalking up just a single half century.

Granted that all Indian batsmen struggled, perhaps with the exception of Mayank Agarwal in teh second innings, Vihari came to bat when the ball was not even new. If Vihari is to be a long term success in the middle order of this Indian line-up, he will have to find consistency outside of subcontinent conditions. With the pressure ramping up for places, especially with the return of Rohit Sharma and the recent sublime form of K L Rahul, Vihari is in desperate need of a good, impressive score.

#5 Kohli still has a slight offside weakness

Virat Kohli walks back to the pavillion

Both of Virat Kohli's dismissals against the Kiwis were shots that he did not have to play, especially in the first innings, where a very loose shot against Kyle Jamieson gave the New Zealand quick his maiden Test wicket.

The problem is especially acute when Kohli is first starting his innings, where the fluent batsmen is often looking to put bat on ball to deliveries he should perhaps be leaving. To acknowledge Kohli's perceived weakness outside his off stump, we must acknowledge the fact that over 20% of his dismissals in Tests have been by being caught behind.

It must also be acknowledged that after his disastrous first tour to England, where Jimmy Anderson had the (at that time) young and inexperienced batsmen in his pocket, Kohli has massively improved his game outside the off-stump.

Kohli's aggressive approach is what has seen him become so successful. The imperious batsmen should not change his game, but maybe bowling units will continue to target his perceived weakness, especially early on in his innings.

Also read | New Zealand vs India 2020: Never seen India dismantled like that, says Craig McMillan