At best of times, such is the frenetic pace of this format of the game, that it allows for only thinkers with the aptitude of a chess player to over-turn a match.
The Indians looked a little surprised with the brand of cricket that was dished out to them in the T20I series, and the end result was for everyone to see. At best of times, such is the frenetic pace of this format of the game, that it allows for only thinkers with the aptitude of a chess player to over-turn a match. When you add the fact that the conditions that were contrary to what most Indians find back home, and that there had been no tour game to acclimatize, the win starts looking as elusive as rains in the Atacama Desert.
Despite the ever-dazzling countenance, M.S. Dhoni will know that his work is cut-out for the ODIs that follow. Though the fifty over game should afford him more leeway into making a comeback into the game if pegged back early, the batting is something that he would want to look at more closely when the first ODI starts from Tuesday at Napier.
The first impression that came out from both the matches that India was that the batting strategy was directionless. If in the first T20I, the Indians went in with the all or nothing approach - in turn settling with the latter - the Wellington match saw them struggle to come to grips with the pitch. Virender Sehwag played in a way that one he can, but it almost seemed like he was trying to play to his own reputation, rather than that particular delivery's.
Sachin Tendulkar will be back for the matches, but the worry is that he hasn’t featured in a game since the third ODI in Sri Lanka and the only chance that he had had to get in tune with the conditions was the Masters match. But with the presence of the much-shunned - by the BCCI - ICL recruits, Tendulkar had to be withdrawn from match, probably, lest he gets influenced by them! With his imminent return to the top of the order, Gautam Gambhir will be dropped down to number three, who could then be followed by Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, M.S. Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan. All these batsmen, had at least one good outing, and yet, none of their efforts translated into decent partnerships, ensuring lower totals for the visitors.
There was also a sense of shunning of the responsibility by most batsmen, well cognizant of the fact that the Indian batting line-up was long; 'all-rounder' Irfan Pathan at eight, and the basher in Harbhajan Singh coming down at number nine. The other flip to it was that the bowling suffered like no other, as Pathan failed to discover his lost swing and pace back - except for those brief couple of deliveries when he got those men out in second T20I. It was apparent that India had gone in with that buffer of an extra batsman to safeguard against the conditions, rather than playing their full quota of bowlers, and they had to pay dearly in the end.
With Ishant Sharma a doubtful starter, it would make sense to get in Munaf Patel, who barring a niggle or two, could prove to be a handful in such conditions. Again, the swing and seam should assist Praveen Kumar with the new ball and he should replace the beleaguered and out-of-form ‘bowler’ in Pathan jr. Tactically though, Dhoni may be tempted to play that extra spinner in Pragyan Ojha, given the way New Zealand handled Ravindra Jadeja and found the going a little difficult in the Wellington T20I. A lot of this may be dictated by the way the pitch looks for the given match, but who would make way for the extra spinner is anybody's guess.
Such are the vagaries of this game that all of a sudden, the Kiwi medium-pace bowlers have begun to look as menacing as they did in the 1992 World Cup. So much so that the Indian batsmen had found a part-timer in Jesse Ryder - who could be described as someone in the Rod Latham mode - too hot to handle. So much so that from a week back of Indians going as favourites in the ODIs or tests, it is back to even-steven at this point in time.
The alarm bells may not be ringing as yet for Dhoni, but he would know that they aren't too far from sounding either in a cricket-mad country like India.