It took New Zealand only nine days to burst Team India’s ‘Invincible’ bubble.
After a 0-5 drubbing in the T20 international series, the hosts came back with vengeance to inflict a 3-0 whitewash on Virat Kohli and Co. This was the first time in 31 years that India were whitewashed in an ODI series.
Apart from individual brilliance from the Kiwis, the Indian unit was guilty of several slip-ups, which led to the eye-opening series loss for India.
From woeful form of the pacers to the suddenly impotent top-order, India lacked firepower in all departments. The shocker of a series for Jasprit Bumrah’s is separate cause of concern for the team management.
The only silver lining for the side was the purple patch of the middle-order – namely Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul.
Bumrah Losing His Magic
Instead of doing him a world of good, the five-month long break due to injury seems to have spoilt the rhythm of Indian speedstar Jasprit Bumrah.
His return series against Australia and the three-match ODI series against New Zealand have given ample proof that Bumrah might have reached his fitness level but is yet to regain his bowling form.
Till date, the pacer has never gone wicketless in a bilateral series with three or more ODIs nor has he played four matches on a trot without taking a wicket. Both feats took a hit during the recent ODI series.
In fact, Bumrah for the first time in his career, finished a series without a single wicket in any format.
Apart from the fact that he failed to pick wickets, more concerning thing about his current form is how the Kiwi and Australian batters dispatched him at will, both at the start and end of the innings. His tally of 167 runs from 30 overs is unthinkable, especially if we take a look at his bowling figures before his injury.
Williamson, Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill did their homework against Bumrah as not only did they made sure they didn't give him their wickets but also scored a bulk of their runs against him.
If it is just a drop in form then it is not a big cause of concern for Kohli but otherwise, if batsmen have learnt how to read and play Bumrah, then it is surely not good news – especially during a World Cup year.
Toothless Pace Attack
The poor form with the ball is not only confined to Bumrah. Rest of India’s pace battery also seems to be plagued by a dry spell.
In the recently concluded ODI series, while Chahal alone picked up six wickets from two matches, four pacers together (read Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Shami) accounted for five wickets in three matches.
Despite taking 4 out of the 5 wickets, Thakur failed to make a case for himself. His scalps have come at the cost of 227 runs at an economy of 8.05. In fact, he is now third on the list of most runs conceded by a bowler in a bilateral series.
Meanwhile, youngster Navdeep Saini, who replaced Shami from the 2nd ODI, even failed to open his account in the wicket’s column.
The inability of the pace trio to get an early breakthrough surely contributed to India’s 0-3 humiliation.
Inexperienced Opening Pair
India’s usually overcrowded opening slot finally made way for two new openers during the three-match ODI series in New Zealand. And we saw Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal make their limited-overs debut for the national side.
More than a year back, the duo had remarkable Test debuts at the opening slot. But unfortunately, they couldn’t recreate the same magic in the 50-over format.
While the first ODI saw the opening pair put up their best stand of the series – 48-ball 50 – the next two matches were dismal affairs. With poor opening stands of 21 and 8, Prithvi and Mayank deprived Team India of something which actually led to New Zealand’s success. The Kiwi pair of Martin Guptill and Henry Nicholls scored 85, 93 and 106.
Though, Shaw looked at least good with his shot-making, and even got starts in all the matches, it might be a while before Agarwal returns to the ODI side.
Kohli Not Among the Runs
After a fifty in the first match of the ODI series in Hamilton, skipper Kohli missed out with the bat in the next two games as India slumped to their first ODI series whitewash outside Asia in 31 years.
With absence of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan at the top, Kohli is the senior most customer with the bat. His responsibility doubled with two youngsters – Shaw and Agarwal – failing to hold the command at the start of the innings.
His average of 25.00 has to be one of his lowest averages in a three or more bilateral series. In fact, Kohli’s tally of 75, including a fifty in three innings, is his lowest in a bilateral ODI series as captain.
The bar has been set so high by King Kohli that an average outing is never well received – in this case, it was not even mediocre.
Silver Lining – The Middle Order
The way things stand, Iyer and Rahul could do no wrong with the bat. Once the Achilles heel of Team India, the middle-order was the highlight of the India's batting in the ODI series in New Zealand.
Coming into New Zealand, Iyer had already made the number four spot on the batting the order his own. Before the New Zealand tour, the Mumbai batsman scored 4 fifties in 8 innings, which included four back-to-back half centuries.
Against the Kiwis also, Iyer scored three fifty-plus scores (105, in as many innings, including his maiden international century.
As far as Rahul is concerned, after excelling at the top of the order in the T20 series, he was once gain at his best at his new number five spot.
The way Rahul has made adjustment to his batting to suit the need of the Indian middle-order is quite exceptional. His 112 and 88 not out are a testimony of the fact.
The duo finished the series as number one and number two on the Indian batting charts and led India's recovery after the top-order collapse in all the three ODIs.
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