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India stay alive in New Zealand but still questions to answer

Despite salvaging a last-ball tie in the Auckland ODI to keep the series alive, India have plenty of problems to address.

Nitin Chouhan |Cricketnext |January 26, 2014, 8:14 AM IST
India stay alive in New Zealand but still questions to answer

After losing comprehensively in South Africa and beaten decisively in the first two ODIs in New Zealand, India were desperate to reverse the tide in the third match in Auckland. And they came close to doing so, courtesy some gutsy batting by Ravichandran Ashwin (65 off 46) and Ravindra Jadeja (66* off 45) in the end, which helped the visitors tie the contest and remain alive in the five-match series.

But barring the rearguard action from the lower order, there were not many positives for India in the game at Eden Park. Their bowling was once again listless, while their top-order batsmen failed to contribute meaningful knocks.

Despite his expensive outing (2 for 84) on Saturday, Mohammad Shami still looked the only Indian bowler threatening to take wickets. Bhuvneshwar Kumar lacked precision, while Varun Aaron was evidently carrying some leftover rust he gathered during his long injury layoff.

Ashwin finally lived up to his captain's unflinching faith in him, ending the wicketless streak that lasted 78.4 overs and gave away 323 runs before he got the breakthrough on Saturday. We have often talked about the Indian bowlers' inability to take 20 wickets in Test matches overseas, but now the same frailty is getting exposed in ODIs too.

Despite his extraordinary record as skipper, Dhoni is looking more and more a captain who is picking his bowlers on the basis of who could give away minimum runs rather than ones who could provide him wickets when needed. His decision to repetitively field first after winning the toss also reflects on his lack of trust in his bowlers to defend a total.

Dhoni should take solace from the fact that he has kept his touch with the bat, scoring two fifties. But at No. 6, he has often found himself saving a sinking ship - which throws up a case for Dhoni to promote himself up the order.

Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan might thank each other for putting on a fifty stand (64) for the first time since their 112-run partnership against Australia in Bangalore. But both have developed a knack of getting out when looking set for big scores; this is bound to hurt the team overseas, if not at home.

Not getting good partnerships while chasing big totals means India have been heavily dependent on Virat Kohli to do the bulk of the scoring. And to the credit of the 25-year-old, he has done his bit, scoring 123 and 78 in the first two matches, though both the knocks came in a losing cause.

Another player who has got Dhoni's constant backing for quite some time now is Suresh Raina, but he isn't converting his 20s and 30s into match-winning knocks, which has cost India quite a few games now as his lean patch seems ceaseless and whispers of his CSK link keeping him in Team India growing grow louder.

Some might say it's important to give players a long rope so that they rest assured of their place and play their natural game without the pressure of a sword hanging over them. But should it come at the expense of not trying someone who could do a better job? The answer to this question might be with Dhoni and the Indian team management. Hope they answer it before it's too late.

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5211 116
2 New Zealand 3959 110
3 Australia 4320 108
4 England 5253 105
5 South Africa 3537 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6967 124
2 India 7939 118
3 New Zealand 5347 116
4 South Africa 5602 112
5 Australia 5915 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 8926 270
2 Australia 7815 269
3 England 6407 267
4 India 12141 264
5 South Africa 6220 259
see more