New Zealand v India, 1st Test, Auckland February 5, 2014

Batsmen need to show SA wasn't a one-off

After their unexpected success in South Africa, India's batsmen start the Test series in New Zealand with reputations to maintain

Dravid asks for consistency from Dhawan, Rohit and Rahane

India's Test totals from their trip to South Africa are 280, 421, 334, 223. There is nothing earth-shattering about these numbers. There is only one score over 350. These are not totals that will easily win you Test matches. But these are not totals that will send you hurtling to innings defeats either. These are totals that show you can compete. They show you won't be easily brushed aside. And when you consider the inexperience of the line-up that put them together, against the No 1 Test side, you appreciate the true significance of these scores.

M Vijay, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara had played a handful of Tests outside India before the South Africa tour. Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane were playing their first Tests away from home. Kohli and Pujara came out of the tour with bigger reputations. Vijay and Rahane took important steps towards building theirs. Only Dhawan and Rohit faltered.

Not that it hasn't already been recognised, but in time to come, the magnitude of what this bunch of young men achieved in South Africa will be appreciated even more - especially if they continue to build on that unexpectedly impressive start on their several upcoming tours, starting with New Zealand.

Again, the challenge is daunting. There is plenty of grass on the Eden Park pitch for the first Test. The ball might swing more in New Zealand than it did in South Africa. The overcast skies expected in Auckland for the first Test will further assist Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Corey Anderson. Like some of the Indian batsmen, Southee is still a young man but with an already established reputation. The other three are left-hand bowlers of different types. Boult swings it like a banana into the right-handers when the conditions are favourable. The tireless Wagner is at you all day. Anderson is more than a handy fourth seamer, and can get it to dart around and kick off the seam. New Zealand have developed a potent pace attack in home conditions.

How will the Indians tackle them? Vijay went into the South Africa series termed a walking wicket outside off by many. The discipline and patience he showed in leaving deliveries was refreshing. The angles from the three left-armers will be harder to judge and leave. It was only one innings in a practice match against a fringe side in Whangarei, but Vijay fell playing loosely from the crease, and that is a tendency he will have to resist against the swinging ball.

The honeymoon is well and truly over for Dhawan. He was dropped for the decisive fourth ODI in Hamilton. He has the swagger, he has the power, he has the talent. But can he adapt? Can he rein himself in and see out the new, swinging ball? Can he resist having a go at the bouncer? New Zealand might tell us if Dhawan can be a long-term prospect as Test opener.

Pujara and Kohli are men with quite some standing in the game now. Both made hundreds in South Africa. Kohli did it in his first Test innings in the country, and nearly got two in Johannesburg alone. Pujara made one of his big hundreds in the second innings. These two are the drivers of the Indian line-up now, both home and away. That is a huge responsibility to have. Both know how crucial their wickets are, how dearly the opposition wants to send them back early.

"I know now that the opposition wants to get me out," Kohli had said after making an ODI hundred in Napier in his first international innings in New Zealand. "That's why they are going to try to rattle me and try to get me into a fight but that gives me one more reason not to get out."

These words show how much Kohli has matured. Pujara has appeared mature since the time he debuted. It is upto them to make this tour another notable chapter on their journey in international cricket.

Few thought Rahane would punch tall South African fast bowlers for four off the back foot. Rahane was probably the most delightful batting surprise for India in South Africa. No one has held that No 6 position for India for any decent period for years now. A couple of solid knocks on this tour might just seal the slot for Rahane for some time to come.

Rohit's is probably the most interesting case. He was brought down to earth in South Africa after the home highs against Australia and West Indies. Irrational aggression, irrational caution, both led to his downfall. He can be iffy against the moving ball, especially early, and will have to tighten up that aspect, especially if there is cloud cover and Boult is steaming in. In his favour, the longest format does seem to be the one his game appears more suited to.

On the whole, not many teams in cricket are blessed with such an exciting crop of young batsmen. They were expected to fold over on their first collective tour, but surprised the world. The second one is here now, and this time, there are some expectations and reputations to live up to.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 5, 2014, 17:21 GMT

    Agree with @Nampally ; but it is better to go with Aswin than a pace bowler as it adds a batting option also which extends the batting to No:8 spot. and he seems more comfortable in handling the fast bowlers so that he can come in before Dhoni. and Jadeja.

    and @Ravi Ganapathy.... Except Pandey for Yadav.

  • mohan on February 5, 2014, 17:10 GMT

    I could see lot of venom against Rohit, Dhawan and 4 bowler theory in test match which is unnecessary and uncalled for.

    Personally i feel 4 bowler approach is end product of defensive mindset, having said that Dhoni is more worried abt losing a test match abroad than winning it. We have to understand that our batting is brittle, even Ganguly our most aggressive captain used to play with 4 bowlers. We will face this problem till the time we find a fast bowling allrounder. Coming to Rohit and Dhawan, Dhawan should be replaced with Gambhir as he looks out of place when playing abroad. Rohit with all his talent should be persisted for a series or two before he is shown the door. I love his bating...and dont want him to be another Vinod Kambli...All the best!!!

  • Ashok on February 5, 2014, 16:52 GMT

    India has 2 fine batsmen in Pujara & Kohli who are reliable. If they play responsibly, then India will be in the Match. Pujara needs to hold one end right thru' the innings if India has to score big.The rest of the batting with the exception of Dhoni is "Iffy". Vijay, Dhawan & Rahane need to produce good scores. NZ has at least 5 regular bowlers in XI + 2 other guys who can bowl. So it is a strong NZ bowling. Their batting relies heavily on Williamson & Taylor. If these 2 are taken out early, they still have Corey Anderson & McCullum to deal with. So it is power packed batting too. India need 4 pacers + I spinner. This will enable the pace bowlers to bowl either as combo or in pairing with a spinner. India need to avoid any run outs - like the one Pujara had in Test #1 vs. SA. If Ashwin and/or Jadeja plays, I would recommend India to open with either of them with Vijay. This allows India to use an extra all rounder + eliminate non productive Dhawan + use an extra batsman lower down.

  • Mudasir on February 5, 2014, 14:52 GMT

    same story will happen again, india will lost all the matches but will highlight few things and captian conference will be we have learn many things, players are very talented but failure to execusion. Indian cric team have lost 9 test matches out of 10 overseas , rest of 1 match had draw which was one of best match i have ever seen.

  • Ashok on February 5, 2014, 14:43 GMT

    Mr. Purohit, How can India play with 4 bowlers in a 5 day tests- with a 35 year old ZAK + 3 other bowlers to share 90 overs/day. This is tempting fate for an injury to happen.Distribute the load by having an additional pace bowler. It makes lot of sense. If one bowler is injured India run the risk of a second injury by putting additional load on 3 bowlers instead of 4. This is my first point. My second point is when 6 specialist batsmen are chosen, India should be scoring 600 not looking at 350. otherwise go with 5 bowlers to contain the opposition batting. Thirdly, India needs a medium pacer who can bowl economically for long spells. Pandey deserves a chance to show this ability to do this. My last point is India with 5 specialist batsmen can go up to #7 in batting with Dhoni & Jadeja. These 7 batsmen if they average 50 runs each, can total 350 Total. It is better to be cautious than Pathetic. There is no Country which plays a Test match with 4 bowlers & vainly hopes to Win!

  • Logan on February 5, 2014, 14:07 GMT

    andrew-schulz , You failed to mention excretment on you.Shame you do not have a clue the positives that came of the tour of SA by the indians.They do the same to any country that play against them in subcontinent countries.So why no one talks of that.There isn't a great test team that you can single out that can win comfortable in all the different countries.Therefore the numbers game ie 1,2 or 3 makes no sense to me.Its for these reasons that I cannot single out a top test,odi or T20 country.

  • IndTheBest on February 5, 2014, 14:03 GMT

    Somewhat agreed to @VGBPL on concept of having two different set of team for home and away tours. There are certain players who play fast/bounce better and bowl better at away pitches. Rohit/Dhawan are really great on home turf so the Ashwin or other spinners but when it comes to away tours they should consider different set of batsman & bowlers. Jiwanjot Singh is a good example who plays fast bowling better than some of our traditional openers. Amit Mishra would be better spinner than Ashwin on foreign pitches. Regarding the Zol/Sampson - I'd rather send them on 'A' tour and let them prove their credentials before risking the national team.

  • Najeeb on February 5, 2014, 14:02 GMT

    Nothing to be proud of. A team which scored only 45, lost in the end. A team which scored SO MANY barely avoided a defeat ( Thanks to the undue carefulness on part of S.A) and clearly lost the other encounter. We play to win, not to lose and still be proud of heroics of few. Despite so many Heroes, Super Heroes, Greats, and Gods, the victory percentage of Indian cricketing outfits is SHAMEFUL , to say the least.

  • Black on February 5, 2014, 11:34 GMT


    Exactly. We should learn from the highly distinguished Kiwi and overseas batting line-up, who built a fearsome and tremendous score of 45 against SA, in SA. We should totally be ashamed of our batting after they piled up over 400 runs against the world's best attack in their backyard.

  • andrews on February 5, 2014, 11:04 GMT

    You are kidding, aren't you? When it mattered, the batsmen failed like the useless pile of excrement they are in South Africa. Have never won, and will never win, a series in South Africa or Australia. Pathetic away record elsewhere too. What standard do Indians judge their team by?

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