Indian pacers have taken the bulk of the blame for the team's repeated defeats in New Zealand. While the bowling has indeed been below-par, India's top-order performance with the bat has not been effective either. (Match report)
Bowling has always been a major concern for Team India while batting, their mainstay. In New Zealand though, in-form batsmen Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have failed to fire - exposing the Indian top-order. The two batsmen - infamous for dismantling opposition bowling attacks - have been explosive in the recent past. After all, Dhawan was the top-scorer in Champions Trophy last year and Sharma was fourth in the same list. The story though, has changed dramatically in New Zealand. (Highlights)
Even when either of the two Indian openers has managed a rare start, the Kiwis have pulled the plug on their fledging innings. (Pics)
Take Dhawan's performance for instance. He has scored (32, 12, 28 and 9) 81 runs in four innings. Even R Ashwin - in the side for his bowling - has scored more with 87 runs, including a half-century in the 3rd match. Former India skipper Mohammad Azharuddin recently questioned Dhawan's technique and said that he needs to fix basic mistakes to score freely once again. "Our opening partnership is of big concern. Since the South Africa series, we have not got good starts," he observed.
"Dhawan in particular, doesn't leave the rising deliveries. He stands outside the crease which is the reason he meets the rising delivery early which is also a mistake."
While Dhawan averaged a little over 20 in the series, Rohit (3, 20, 39, 79 and 4) has been only slightly better with an average of 29 from his five knocks. He has struggled repeatedly against bouncers and the Kiwi pacers have made the most of this weakness.
When a team's openers are placed fifth (Rohit) and eight (Dhawan) in the list of top-scorers in a series, it is obviously a source of great concern. The concern becomes an emergency when compared with the top-order of the opposition.
While Dhawan and Rohit have struggled, New Zealand top-order has made the most of India's ordinary bowling attack.
Apart from Jesse Ryder (94 from 5 innings at an average of just over 18), every established batsman in the side has scored heavily against India. Opener Martin Guptill has had a consistent series with 214 runs from his five innings at an average of 42.80. Ross Taylor too has slapped back-to-back tons and is the second highest scorer in the series (343 runs at a whopping average of 85.75). No. 3 batsman Kane Williamson has been the stand-out player for the Kiwis with a fifty in each of his five knocks propelling him to the top of the list of highest run-getters in the series.
There is hardly any doubt then, that seventh-ranked New Zealand had not just claimed the series against India but had also managed to outplay the tourists in every department of the team. And as MS Dhoni looks to focus on his pace options, the Indian skipper will also need to give some thought to his mis-firing top-order.