India suffered their first defeat in the ICC World Test Championship when they were comprehensively beaten by New Zealand in the first Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. The Indian batsmen faltered in front of New Zealand's pace attack and the Indian bowlers found it hard yet again to get rid of the lower order quickly.
One of the biggest factors that affected the game was the toss that went in New Zealand's favour. The Kiwis got the advantage of using the green pitch and the overcast conditions and effectively India were on the back foot at 122-5 at the end of day one. But the toss was not the only thing that went wrong for India.
Prithvi Shaw was making his comeback into the Indian team after a doping ban and had been presented the opportunity to open the innings alongside Mayank Agarwal in the absence of Rohit Sharma. However, he did not respect the conditions and played all around a pretty straight ball, thus losing his wicket. Barring Cheteshwar Pujara and Hanuma Vihari, all the other Indian batsmen got out playing false strokes and needless shots.
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Skipper Virat Kohli's form has been a huge cause of concern and all the hopes of making things right in the longest format wee shattered when Kohli was caught while chasing a wide delivery outside the off-stump by Kyle Jamieson. India were then skittled for just 165 and New Zealand then had the better conditions to bat on day two.
Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor piled on the misery on the Indian bowlers. Jasprit Bumrah looked like the shadow of his old self as he was being easily played by the Kiwis. India, however, tried to come back in the game and with the lead just 60 runs and 7 wickets down, Kohli sniffed a chance of getting New Zealand bowled out quickly. But little did he know that he and his team were going to face the same problem that haunted them in England in 2018.
The New Zealand tail wagged and the likes of Jamieson took an absolute chunk out of Ravichandran Ashwin, tonking him for sixes for fun. He scored 44 off just 45 deliveries which included 4 huge sixes. Trent Boult too contributed and New Zealand's last 3 wickets added 120 runs which hurt India a lot in the end.
India suffered another batting collapse where once again Shaw's technique was exposed and once again Kohli got out in unlikely fashion, caught down the leg side trying to hook a short ball. Commentator Sanjay Manjrekar believed that Kohli's form was one of the main factors why India lost the Test easily.
"Kohli getting out early in both innings, that was a massive factor. If Virat Kohli gets runs, it puts the opposition off their plans. New Zealand stuck to their plans, nobody was out there counter-attacking and this did not help India’s cause,” Manjrekar told on Star Sports after the match.
Kohli has scores of 45, 11, 38, 11 (T20s); 51, 15, 9 (ODIs) and 2 and 19 (1st Test) so far and his worrying form is a huge cause of concern for team India. The Indian skipper, however, has always had a strong mindset and that reflected in whatever he had to say about his form.
“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,” Kohli told in the post-match press conference.
“Look when you play so much cricket and you play for so long, obviously you will have 3-4 innings that don’t go your way. If you try and make too much out of it, it’ll keep piling on,” he further added.
It will be interesting to see whether India make any changes to the starting eleven or do they back the likes of Shaw and Ashwin to deliver in the second Test. They do have the option of Shubman Gill available to open since he has been in fantastic form lately, scoring a double-hundred and a hundred against New Zealand A. Ravindra Jadeja would also be an option for replacing Ashwin and his batting ability would give India extra cushion down the order.
Some way or the other, the Indian batsmen will have to step up and put runs on the board and the Indian bowlers will have to find a way of getting rid of the opposition tail quickly if they intend to learn from their mistakes and give their best effort to try and win the second Test and prevent a series whitewash.