A bright and sunny morning welcomed the players on Day 4 of the series opener at Basin Reserve. The general atmosphere radiated cheerfulness, but India's chances of winning the match seemed bleak.
New Zealand's pace spearhead got one to nonchalantly straighten off the deck, kiss the edge of Rahane's hanging willow, and settle into the waiting gloves of BJ Watling. It was an absolute cakewalk.
Whether it is due to India's unfamiliarity with the seaming conditions, or the technical incompetence of their batsmen, but such lopsided results are not unusual for them overseas. There was hardly a session during the course of the encounter where New Zealand struggled to pick wickets, let alone feel any pressure whatsoever.
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Much to their credit, the hosts dominated the mental contests and executed their plans to perfection. Prithvi Shaw's technical glitches were viciously exploited, and sheet-anchor Cheteshwar Pujara was constantly forced to negotiate probing fourth-stump channels. However, nothing hurt India more than Virat Kohli's underwhelming performance.
The keyboard warriors are venting their anger on social media, labeling the skipper a proven flat-track bully. Tempers are flying high because Kohli delivered nothing close to the exorbitant benchmarks he's set for himself.
Kyle Jamieson lured him into flashing recklessly at another wide half-volley when India were invited to counter New Zealand's wrath on the green seamer. Later, arch-nemesis Boult tested Kohli's front-foot game before methodically bouncing him out.
It is common knowledge that the flamboyant right-hander has done the heavy lifting on India's international assignments, and hence expectations follow hiim everywhere. While the youngsters can hide behind the shell of inexperience, Kohli, or even Pujara and Rahane for that matter, have to bear the brunt of public criticism.
However, the Indian captain appears unperturbed by his lean patch.
"I am absolutely fine. I am batting really well. I feel that sometimes scores don't reflect the way you are batting and that's what can happen when you don't execute what you want to well. I think it's all about doing the basics right and putting the hard work in practice." Kohli said when questioned about his form.
"I am looking forward to contributing in a win in the next Test. It doesn't matter what I do. It's never been about my performance on tour or about how many runs I score," he added.
Although India's bowling attack blew hot and cold, pointing the finger at the bowlers for the loss would be a mistake. Notwithstanding the bountiful assistance at their disposal, defending such paltry numbers is not an easy task.
The batsmen ought to put the runs on the board. Likewise, since tweakers extract negligible purchase from the surface, they also need that sense of assurance to keep operating in tight areas and not worry about conceding the occasional boundary in the pursuit of breakthroughs.
The defeat could have been accepted readily had India gone down fighting. But the heavyweight batting arsenal never took ownership of their task and therefore, deserve complete blame.
Considering the grave situation, India might even fancy benching Ravichandran Ashwin and including dynamic all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja to refine the team balance moving forward.
India pride themselves on their red-ball expertise, and Wellington's mauling has left their egos bruised. The caravan now moves to Hagley Oval in Christchurch for the ultimate showdown. Kohli's men need to quickly learn the lessons and revert to type, otherwise the Kiwis might prove too hot to handle yet again.