Date: November 27, 2013, Venue: Kanpur, Opponents: West Indies, Format: ODI. These details are significant since it was the last time India won an international game. Shikhar Dhawan, then at the peak of his powers, smashed his fifth ODI ton as India outdid the weak Windies outfit by five wickets. Since, India have had a barren run failing to win a single Test or one-dayer, first in South Africa, and so far in New Zealand. Almost symbolically, Dhawan’s struggles have coincided with those of India. He fought hard at Auckland and came up with an uncharacteristically patient century. Hopefully, it was a sign of good times to come.
What India have been lacking over the last few games across all formats is consistency. Often, they have found themselves in positions from where they could have pushed for wins, but failed to seize the opportunity. This is what India need to avoid at Wellington. They cannot afford to put up an up and down performance if they hope to come up with a win, their last chance to make amends on another disappointing tour. If they indeed manage to emerge triumphant at Auckland, it would be big surprise, such has been their showing in South Africa and New Zealand.
As per reports emerging, the track at Wellington will have pace and movement. If that indeed happens, things would become doubly difficult for the Indians. Of course, this might just be a ploy by the hosts to put the struggling visitors under further pressure. Then again, India must be prepared for whatever is thrown at them, just like opponents expect when they visit the sub-continent. In the end, it will also be how they mentally tackle the New Zealanders, for things would be tough for them anyhow.
As MS Dhoni said post the Auckland loss, the Indians would hopefully learn from where they went wrong and improve on the same. Thankfully for India, there were a few positives especially in the second innings when both the bowlers and batsmen stood up and delivered. Shikhar Dhawan’s role would be crucial considering that he got a hundred in the last Test. He will now have the confidence to take on the New Zealand bowlers. Dhawan has proved in the past that he is a match-winner, but that has been in batsmen-friendly conditions. The Wellington Test would be an interesting challenge for him.
Virat Kohli’s performance will also matter a lot. Following the Auckland loss, there has been plenty of criticism of the irresponsible shot he played that triggered India’s collapse. A lot of the flak has been unfair though. Kohli’s aggression is his biggest strength, and there will be times that will get him out. Also, he has singlehandedly held the batting together on numerous occasions. So it is about time some others stand up as well. Skipper Dhoni is one name for sure. He has been a liability with the bat for a while. --By A Cricket Analyst