India tour of New Zealand 2013-14 February 11, 2014

India's batsmen proving to be fast learners

In spite of their inexperience, India's young batsmen are displaying a capability to adapt and cope with tough situations, as the Tests in Johannesburg and Auckland have shown

India made 366 in their second innings in Auckland. It was only the seventh time they had made more than 350 in the fourth innings of a Test outside India. The last time was at Lord's in 2002, helped by a surprising century from No 8 Ajit Agarkar. Before 2002, it was in 1979 at The Oval. Which means that in the time Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman were part of the side, India needed an Agarkar hundred to make more than 350 in the last innings of an away Test.

The four batsmen came together in 1996, and three of them were in the team until the Australia tour of 2012. In that period, India were set 350-plus to win 18 times away from home. They didn't win a single game, and drew six. The first time they were handed such a target in that duration, by South Africa in Durban in 1996, they crashed to 66 all out in 34.1 overs. The second time, in Cape Town, they managed 144.

This is in no way to belittle the efforts of the previous generation, but the statistics illustrate how difficult it is to score so many runs batting last in a Test, something even batsmen of the caliber of the four former Indian batsmen could not do. The efforts from the South African tour of 1996-97 also show how collectively fallible the batsmen, now considered great, were in their early days.

Perhaps the numbers will also help us appreciate what the current set of young Indian batsmen did in Auckland. Not only did they come back from a poor first innings, they crucially told us that the promise they had shown in South Africa a few weeks back could be built upon.

In part because of the deeds of the batsmen preceding them, the current lot will be measured against high standards. Indian cricket has also entered an age where the expectations from fans are generally elevated. But instead of looking at their failure to break the run of 13 overseas Tests without a win, they should be afforded considerable leeway based on their potential, which has been abundantly on display on their first two tours together, especially in Johannesburg and Auckland.

India's top six batsmen have a collective experience of 77 Tests. MS Dhoni alone has played 82. At both Wanderers and Eden Park, first visits to the countries for most of them, they came back from an average first-innings performance. Both times, there were hundreds from the top-order and support from the middle-order.

Also building upon the promise is the exposure they have got on these early tours. The Wanderers match will go down in history as one of the most thrilling draws. The Auckland one was a rollercoaster over days three and four - to concede 503, then get bowled out for 202, then come back to roll over the opposition for 105 and finally, bat so well that at one stage, you had a good chance of chasing down 400-plus, something that has been done only four times ever before.

The current Indian batsmen are on a steep learning curve, and they are not sliding down the slope at the moment.

The current Indian batsmen are on a steep learning curve, and they are not sliding down the slope at the moment. In years to come, the learning will hopefully show. They might in time develop enough to start setting up matches overseas with big totals, as the earlier set did often. India may or may not have the bowling resources to utilise the pressure these totals create, but for now, it is assuring for the side to know that they have a group of batsmen who are picking up things fast. After the Auckland Test was lost by 40 runs, Dhoni hoped his batsmen had come out having absorbed the importance of driving home the advantage when they could. India were 222 for 2, when Virat Kohli threw his bat at a short and wide one to end a century partnership and allow New Zealand back into the game.

"Capitalise. It is a very easy thing to say in one word but a lot of thinking and experience goes behind it. They must be learning out of it," Dhoni said. "Games like these, even if you play one game, it gives you the experience of three-four Test matches, where you start respecting. You start looking ahead into the game. It is a game that goes on for five days, so you start thinking, if we get this partnership going, what needs to be done at the end of the third day maybe.

"Of course, you need to break it down and take it session by session. But it is also important to look ahead as to what needs to be done, what will happen to the wicket, whether it will dry down, whether it will assist the spinners or not. These are the kind of learnings you get out of these games. Hopefully there will be plenty in our dressing room who must have learned a lot out of it."

Wellington might turn out to be better or worse than Durban was. However, there will be no taking away from the potential of Johannesburg and Auckland.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • espncricinfomobile on February 18, 2014, 5:54 GMT

    Indian betting line up is very good but in bowling they are very poor. If india bowling click in t20 and Asia cup they can easily for the same

  • dummy4fb on February 13, 2014, 17:38 GMT

    Virat Kohli is doing fairly well but not consistent, Shikhar Dhawan seems to have adapted of late. Rohit Sharma is not able to crack a big score but is doing ok. I would say the rest are not really doing well enough. They are not being wiped out but they haven't gotten on top of the challenge yet either.

  • dummy4fb on February 13, 2014, 10:05 GMT

    India's Strategy of playing 7 bastman and 4 Bowlers in Overseas condition is totally wrong. First of all, bowling is weak link for India and we further deplete it by only taking 4 bowlers. How are we going to take 20 Wickets ? Mind you these is not India, where spinner can run though the side. Also in first test, we went with 8 batsman to be precise ( Jadeja has 3 Triple tons in domestic Cricket).. so i am not sure, whether our batting is our strength or bowling.. and with 8 batsmen in our side also, we could not chase 400 runs. It is high time, dhoni should be dropped as captain. he does not know how to win test match in foreign condition to be harsh to him...There is sterner test coming ahead in 2014 what with tough tour of England and Australia.. Better India learn fast, else it will be same old story.. of india been beaten 4-0, 5-0,2-0 again and again... Is selector or board listening ? or they are not bothered ? only wants to make money for themselves ?

  • dummy4fb on February 13, 2014, 9:26 GMT

    Hahahaha, fast learners my foot. Ranked No.1 (previously) in ODIs & 2nd in Tests are struggling to win a single match in last 11 Intl. MATCHES :P :v

  • dummy4fb on February 13, 2014, 6:46 GMT

    Why did MSD turn a 5 wicket in hand 100 run chase to a T20? There were good chances to win the test if suddenly Jadeja did not try to hit every ball outside the boundary.

  • Maui3 on February 13, 2014, 6:44 GMT

    @Anand, "Dravid and Ganguly were not match winner?" Ganguly yes, but Dravid? Did you even follow Test cricket from 2000-2006? Dravid won more matches from India outside India than any other Indian batsman ever did. Headingly 148, Adeilade 231, Rawalpindi 270, Kingston twin 50s in a low scoring game. What color is the sky in your world?

  • dummy4fb on February 13, 2014, 5:24 GMT

    The potential for this young Indian team, batsmen and bowlers, is not discouraging. The bowlers showed what is achievable if they are disciplined and catches don't go abegging. The batsmen showed that if they focus and don't lose concentration (I am looking at you Virat Kohli) they are capable of keeping abreast of the best in international cricket. One hopes that with experience the team will get a lot more consistent. One fears that the huge payoffs in the IPL will distract from the dedication and discipline that are still needed. And, has M.S. Dhoni been uncharacteristically distracted during the New Zealand tour? That would seem to be the explanation for a certain lack of focus on the part of the entire team.

  • Cricinfouser on February 13, 2014, 4:44 GMT

    Prof Aks From the bowling of India in IInd innings of NZ (105), I got a blink in confidence, can we repeat the same and toil for 20 Wkts and batting is not so bad if we have limited target (300). 400+ is a daunting task for any team, even NZ couyld not chase this task at their home..Be positive and hope for V this time

  • rajuramki on February 13, 2014, 4:20 GMT

    Most of India's recent test losses are mainly due to the lack of the bowler's ability to take wickets .Stray performances will win a game here and there but it is the bowlers who can set up test matches. In this regard. Indian bowlers are way behind their opponents when they play abroad . Batsmen cannot always provide the cushion of 400+ scores in every match , for the bowlers to have some security .

  • Kashi0127 on February 13, 2014, 4:11 GMT

    From what I can understand regarding the formation of associations and bards, the BCCI in a sense is not really representing the country but a private body. Can the Karnataka team (with Vinay as captain) with so many talented players tour countries representing alternate India. Probably they could notch up more wins than the current Dhoni outfit.

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