Inconsistent New Zealand, familiar conditions for India
India are ranked No. 1 in the ICC ODI rankings while New Zealand are ranked No. 8. However, the contests between the two teams have not been as skewed as the recent gap in their rankings indicates. With a win-loss ratio of 0.58 against the hosts, India are only better than Sri Lanka - excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh - when playing New Zealand in away ODIs.
Their last tour in 2008-09 was India's first bilateral series-win in ODIs in New Zealand. Before that series, India's record in New Zealand was dismal: they had managed to win only seven of the 24 ODIs they had played against the hosts - a win-loss ratio of 0.43. Even Zimbabwe had done better, winning four of their 12 matches ODIs for a win-loss ratio of 0.50. Only Bangladesh had fared worse than India in ODIs in New Zealand before that tour.
However, given how indifferent New Zealand's ODI record has been playing at home in the recent times, India stand a good chance of winning their second-consecutive bilateral series in New Zealand. Since 2011, New Zealand have lost 10 of the 19 ODIs they have played at home and won only eight, three of which have come against Zimbabwe. Among leading ODI teams, only Zimbabwe have had worse stats - in terms of the win-loss ratio - playing at home during this period.
New Zealand owe their ordinary home record in ODIs largely to their inconsistent batting line-up. In 16 ODIs against teams other than Zimbabwe since 2011, New Zealand's top-order batsmen have hit 20 fifty-plus scores, including four centuries, but have averaged only 31.11, which is lower than the top-order averages of the teams they played against during this period. Among their top-order batsmen who have batted at least five innings, only Brendon McCullum averages above 40.
The fact that New Zealand batsmen have been dismissed for cheap scores frequently has meant that they have not been able to string together substantial partnerships too often. The number of fifty-plus partnerships that New Zealand have had in home matches is the least by any team in home matches since 2011. In terms of the percentage of such partnerships, only West Indies have fared worse than them.
|Team||Partnerships||NO||Ave||100 part||50+ part||%age conv.|
Though their India counterparts have not shown any such weaknesses overall, their recent performance in the ODI series in South Africa suggests that they tend to struggle against quality pace attacks in pace-friendly conditions. That has been the case in New Zealand too. Overall, Indian batsmen have such found conditions particularly tough: India's top-order batsmen average 28.09 - the least among countries where they have played at least 20 ODIs. However, their last ODI series here was their best in New Zealand in terms of their batting averages. India's top order averaged 62.72 with two hundreds and eight fifties in that series,significantly better than their previous best tour of New Zealand, in 1993-94, when they averaged 38.45.
However, the Indian batsmen's improved showing in their last series had as much to do with the tracks in New Zealand as they had to with the quality of batsmen that played in the series. Conditions - helped by the shorter boundaries - have become tough in general for fast bowlers here in the last ten years. The seamers average 35.48 in ODIs in New Zealand since 2004, their second-worst in any country after their average of 35.50 in India during this period. Their overall economy of 5.33 playing in New Zealand is only better than their economies in India (5.48) and Pakistan (5.38). In contrast, in the ten-year period before 2004, New Zealand had the most helpful conditions for fast bowlers. They averaged 29.20 in ODIs played in the country, and had an economy of 4.49. Even after discounting for the high scoring rates in limited-overs cricket in the last ten years, numbers indicate that New Zealand has gone from being the most helpful conditions for fast bowlers, to one of the most difficult conditions for them to bowl in.
New Zealand's transition into a country that has become batsmen-friendly in limited-overs cricket is also reflected in how India's fast bowlers have fared in New Zealand over the years. Overall, numbers seem to indicate that India's pacers haven't done too badly in New Zealand. Before their last series here in 2008-09, India's fast bowlers had taken 103 wickets from 24 matches against the hosts at an average of 29.73 and an economy of 4.31. These stats changed drastically in the 2008-09 series, when India's fast bowlers could manage 11 wickets at 50.72 and at an economy of 6.73.
From the current India squad only three regular batsmen - MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma - have played international cricket in New Zealand. If the numbers are any thing to go by, India's batsmen may not find the conditions too different from back home, and their bowlers may find them too similar.
Shiva Jayaraman is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo.com