India v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Bangalore, 4th day September 3, 2012

Batting remains a worry for India

The new-look Indian batting line-up struggled in the easiest assignment this season, a sign that it may not be ready yet for the English and Australian challenge ahead

With a slogged six over midwicket on a murky evening in Bangalore, MS Dhoni sealed a 2-0 Test series victory over New Zealand. For a team in transition, in their first series without two of their greatest middle-order batsmen, and after one of their worst-ever Test performances last season, you'd think it was a satisfactory result. You can't do better than 2-0 in a two-Test contest, but the batting remains a worry after another tight home win for India.

India's formidable home record - just one series loss in the past decade, and that to the mighty Australians at their peak - has been built upon a powerful batting line-up rather than a world-class bowling attack. However, the struggle to match a lightweight New Zealand batting, which has been dismissed below 200 ten times in the last two years, on a fairly easy-paced track at the Chinnaswamy Stadium doesn't bode well.

Gautam Gambhir seemed to have put a fallow spell behind him when he began India's chase of 261 with a confident bunch of boundaries. Unlike the first innings, there were no wobbles against the new ball, and the steer to third man which has cost him his wicket so often in recent Tests seemed to have been wisely mothballed. It re-appeared though in the 18th over, and again led to his downfall as he tamely steered Trent Boult to first slip. It extended a worrying trend of Gambhir being caught either by the wicketkeeper or in the slip cordon.

MS Dhoni wasn't too concerned by Gambhir's struggles, sticking to an oft-repeated mantra about out-of-form batsmen. "I think Gautam is batting really well in the nets and it's just a matter of time that he does the same in matches too," Dhoni said after the match. "Today also he was batting really well. He started off really well. So we're hoping he would come good in the coming games."

The only specialist middle-order batsman to emerge with his reputation enhanced from the Bangalore Test was Man of the Match Virat Kohli. Cheteshwar Pujara looked composed in the early part of his second innings in a high-pressure situation but was beaten outside off too many times after lunch by the gentle offspin of Jeetan Patel. The last remaining member of India's famed middle-order quartet, Sachin Tendulkar, also didn't have a series to remember, getting bowled in all three innings. His unparalleled career is winding down, and the team management need to get a clear idea of his future plans, especially whether he intends to be a part of the tour of South Africa next year. "The good thing is that whenever people talk about Tendulkar's form, he comes up with a brilliant performance and I'm waiting for that," Dhoni said. "I don't really get worried about that."

The biggest concern remains the troublesome No. 6 spot, with Suresh Raina undoing the goodwill earned by his crucial first-innings half-century with a wild swipe that his critics will remind him of for a long time. With India having lost both set batsmen, Tendulkar and Pujara, in the space of six runs, the match was in the balance, and a cool head was required. Instead, after Patel tied him down with some tidy bowling, Raina went charging down the track for a high-risk heave. He missed, and was bowled for a duck, boosting New Zealand's chances of a dream victory.

The first-innings heroics and the subsequent failure in the second was a microcosm of Raina's Test career - highs quickly followed by confidence-sapping lows. He began with a debut century against Sri Lanka, and was a vital part of a successful big chase in his second. When it was time to secure his place, he bafflingly failed against a workmanlike New Zealand attack in the 2010 home series and was soon dropped. Half-centuries in each of the three Tests in the tricky batting conditions of the Caribbean again seemed to bring him close to a permanent spot last year, before England's high-quality bowling worked him out, with a pair at The Oval leading to his exclusion. This series was his third coming, and that too could be shortlived, given the number of contenders for the berth, and the new selectors will certainly take a dim view of his Bangalore brain-fade.

Dhoni defended Raina, highlighting his Test inexperience and his naturally adventurous brand of batting. "There are two ways of fighting pressure - one is to take the fight on and look for big shots," Dhoni said. "In the first innings, he went out there and played his shots. Then he could've nicked one and then the same question would have been asked. Otherwise, people say it was brilliant batting, it was counter attack and all. I still remember me playing against England a long time back in Wankhede, I played a similar kind of shot. You learn from your experience."

Dhoni pointed out another reason to persist with Raina. "It's important to have a left-hander at six or seven. This series [Daniel] Vettori wasn't playing but if a left-hander is there, the mix becomes ideal. Gambhir is at the top of the tree and then you have a fair number of right-handers. Then it's useful if you have a left-hander at six if the wicket is turning. But that doesn't guarantee anyone a place in the Test side."

The in-form Kohli and the ice-cool Dhoni ensured New Zealand didn't pull off an upset victory, but this was the easiest of the assignments this home season and the batting hasn't yet convinced that it is ready for the English and Australian challenge.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 6, 2012, 8:29 GMT

    I feel Dhoni should try Raina for a few more tests. Test cricket is all in the mind. He needs good mentoring. He needs to be very patient and cool and must keep defending and leaving until he gets used to the wicket. And mind you Suresh Raina has scored a century on debut in Sri Lanka and also made a huge contribution when australia toured India averaging round 40 with a high score of 86. he even scored many runs in west indies where he was just the 3rd highest run scorer behind Laxman and Dravid. Agreed that he doesent have a very good technique against short ball but dat can be corrected. Dhoni should take Raina in the team because a left hander at no 5 and 6 is imp. Raina even plays well in pressure situations

  • Pavan on September 5, 2012, 12:31 GMT

    I Think We need to accept the fact that Bowlers from NZ, Oz,Eng are much more taller than the Indian bowlers & Batsmen. So they naturally will get bounce on any wickets......Our batsmen can counter attack them but they just cannot eliminate the natural advantage they have. One or the other ball they need to face that drawback!! You cannot expect our batsmen to completely dominate the bowlers not giving them even a penny of a chance!! I would say New Zealand bowlers have done veryy much well rather than pointing it as a Indian batsmen weakness!! Why we cannot say that Indian Pace bowlers failed to put up the performance or failed to live up to their expectations when compared to NZ's pacers!!!!

  • Muhammad Talha on September 5, 2012, 7:40 GMT

    batting remains a worry?? what abt bowling??

  • KH. RAFIQUE on September 5, 2012, 7:30 GMT

    Come on except RAINA INd is no longer to worry so much..........Its just the beginning of new ERA from IND part....So, whats this fuzz all about???Just leave alone TENDULKAR........Hope IND will do well in the upcoming test series against AUS and SA......All the best from a die hard BAN fan>>>>>

  • saurabh on September 5, 2012, 7:15 GMT

    Even i feel that Sachin should call it a day.....however the way people have been reacting on news channels and websites is not kinda takes away all the hardwork he has done for the indian team or the fame he has got for the country. Lets be a little more respectful to the most reverred ambassador to the game of cricket.

  • Dummy4 on September 5, 2012, 7:05 GMT

    We can't miss Sachin in important matches. Sachin's presence will always give the boost to india team...Let us won't force sachin to leave the cricket. I hope he will take wise decision in right time....

    We can try with Badrinath for tests, He is a good test player. We can miss Raina for the tests.

  • Dummy4 on September 5, 2012, 7:03 GMT

    Rainas technique against the offspinners is bit suspect (exposing the stumps and playing inside out). He tries to attack them and get them to bowl in his areas. Thats ok for one-dayers, but for tests.... His technique against fast bowling also was pathetic (too may times he was caught at the crease for fuller balls). He needs to play a couple of Ranji seasons before he plays another test. But rest of the batsman were ok, few looked rusty (Tendulkar, Gambhir), but not out of depth...

  • Dummy4 on September 5, 2012, 6:37 GMT

    Tendulkar is only going through a bad patch & can soon come back to top form like he went through similar form dip from 2003 to 2006 then came back & remained at top form from 2007 to 2011 WC ...He is facing technical issue & when you have a proven career then u shouldn't look at coaching manual to corect it, instead u should look at full videos (not mere highlights) of your fluent innings......In Sachin's case the main difference is that whenever he has played fluent long inn 1). At short execution point he would have been upright with head slightly to leg side as opposed to off 2). He played face on 3). He played with open face for even leg stump aimed deliveries ..4).Further he should play with bat in front of pads with face open to fully eradicate lbw & bold for ever ..With this successful technique of his he had minor weakness of playing too often towards gully but it is fine trade off bcz few will carry to gully & even fewer will be caught as opposed to getting bold & lbw

  • Dummy4 on September 5, 2012, 6:35 GMT

    Even masters need daily practice this is a sport where no one call himself immortal, no one live on past glories every match is a new begining,, its require constent imrpovement till one goes off..I am referring to Sacins's dismisal in last two test where he was bowled three times, yes age is not in his side and altough he is out of action for almost 6 months..I am sure he will come back..he is a a master of his own fate, there is only thing he needs to he must play more matches..his form will come...

  • Dummy4 on September 5, 2012, 6:30 GMT

    Raina looked awkward and uncomfortable duting his first innings' fifty. He seems to have both technical and metal problems while playing test cricket. Even if he succeeds in the tests against England and Australia, he would be toroughly exposed in SA if he continues with the same weaknesses. He is a mighty fine player in the limited overs format, no doubt, but I get a feeling he is in the same mould as Yuvraj Singh.

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