India’s bowling paves way for thrilling series win over New Zealand
The recently concluded ODI series between India and New Zealand went down to the last match, and the home side prevailed 3-2. It was a roller coaster ride for the Indian side - one full of suspense till the very end.
Leading a young side for the series was an uphill task for MS Dhoni as he was tasked with leading the team to success following a run where nothing came good for him except for the series against Zimbabwe. In addition to this, his personal performances also needed improvement, both in terms of his batting and his wicket-keeping.
Pushing himself up the order to no. 4 in the batting order was a master stroke which proved beneficial, both for the team and the captain.
He also helped the Indian batting maintain the flow of runs, while not losing wickets regularly, and his performance shone through in the third ODI, when he made 80. His ability to be at his team’s service in their time of need, and his general consistency throughout the match, saw him rewarded with the Jana Bankable Player award, an award that emphasises on consistent performances that help push the match in their team’s favour.
This move was made all the more important by the fact that the opening pair did not rise to the occasion despite the huge responsibility resting on their shoulders to create a platform for the middle order to build on.
This eventually shifted the responsibility onto Virat Kohli, who without a doubt is the pillar of the Indian team. He was the epicentre of all the Indian victories and finished as the series' top run-scorer with 350 runs in 5 matches.
The man from Delhi was India’s most bankable player during the series, and he cemented his reputation as possibly the best ODI batsman in the world, especially during chases. His performance in the first ODI was recognised and rewarded when he won the Jana Bankable Player award for his unbeaten knock of 85 in a match that saw batsmen find it difficult to score runs freely.
Manish Pandey had a golden opportunity in the absence of more established players to make a name for himself in the middle order but his indecisiveness and inability to apply himself saw him endure a lacklustre tournament.
India fielded a relatively young bowling side during the ODI series with likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami all being given a rest and younger players being given a chance.
Among them, Kedar Jadhav was the most impressive of the lot, surprising everybody and finishing as the 4th highest wicket-taker in the series. He turned out to be the captain's trump card with the ball, breaking partnerships at critical moments, picking up 6 wickets. Although he wasn't as impressive with the bat, he did show glimpses of the potential he has to be a better batsman.
The bowlers impressed throughout the series and lived up to the trust put in them by the selectors. On pitches that were flat and easy to bat on, Umesh Yadav, in particular, was very impressive with the new ball, generating great pace and swing.
My personal favourite, Jasprit Bumrah, also impressed with his line and length as well as his menacing yorkers. He turned the match on its head with his bowling in the match at Delhi, picking three wickets and breaking the back of New Zealand’s batting. His performance helped the Kiwis onto the backfoot, and exuded consistency, and he was rightfully awarded the Jana Bankable Player award.
The one match he missed resulted in Dhoni having to think long and hard about his bowling line-up as an important weapon of his was taken away from him.
Pandya was another who was very impressive with the new ball, especially in Dharamsala and Delhi, achieving speeds up to 140 km/ph. His ability to chip in with the bat was also an added advantage but he is still very inexperienced and has a lot to learn.
Amit Mishra silenced his critics by leading the Indian bowling attack with devastating impact. He was the highest wicket taker with 15 wickets, and his 5/19 spell in Vizag proved to be the difference between the two sides.
As someone who started as a bowler, it was very pleasing to see Mishra win the Man of the Series award, as it is very rare for a bowler to win these awards on flat Indian surfaces.
With this great performance, Mishra has given the selectors a lot to think about for the forthcoming series against England, in both the longer and the limited-overs format of the game.
The only issue I believe persisted throughout this series was the inability of the Indian bowling attack to control the extras they gave away, which was also blamed as the reason for the loss in the fourth ODI by captain MS Dhoni.
Having suffered a 0-3 whitewash in the Test series, there were quite a few question marks surrounding the New Zealand team and their ability to put the losses behind them and make amends in the ODI series - especially after the manner in which they lost the first ODI.
However, the Kiwis showed their resilience in the 2nd ODI on the sluggish Delhi surface and the main reason for their series loss can be attributed to a lack of support from the lower order.
While Tom Latham and Kane Williamson continued to build on their experiences from the Test series, the rest of the batting line-up could not match them, especially Ross Taylor, who was expected to make a big impact. Being the most experienced of the lot, he had a horror time with the bat as well as on the field, dropping some important catches.
Tim Southee was an important player, with both bat and ball, as his bowling kept the Indians on their toes always, while his batting provided great entertainment for the crowds, and some much needed thrust down the order for the Kiwis.
His bowling spell of 3/40 and ability to support Mitchell Santner at the end of the New Zealand innings saw him awarded the Jana Bankable Player award for the fourth ODI, as his crucial breakthroughs destabilised the Indian batting while the few runs he added along with Santner proved to be the difference.
An important positive to take from the fifth and final ODI was the innings by Rohit Sharma, whose return to form comes just at the right time for MS Dhoni, who will be looking to finalise on the names for the Indian squad for the 2017 Champions Trophy.
His knock provided the necessary platform for the Indians to register a competitive total and came at a crucial time in the innings. For his ability to come through when his team needed him, Sharma was declared the Jana Bankable Player of the match.
Finally, in the 5th ODI, for the first time ever in the history of international cricket, the Indian players were seen wearing their mothers' names on their jerseys. It was an emotional display on a public platform and one that made me wish was thought of during my playing days.