New Zealand v India, 1st Twenty20, Christchurch February 25, 2009

The price of aiming too high

Sidharth Monga in Christchurch

Mahendra Singh Dhoni: "It was not a conscious effort to go after the bowlers and hit those big sixes" © Getty Images

India have often been accused of making slow starts to overseas tours, but no one can make that accusation this time - their first 11 balls in New Zealand went for 25 runs. Unfortunately for India, they got too greedy - the short boundaries at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch offered a temptation few of their batsmen could resist.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni admitted after the game that they over-reached, aiming for around 220 when 190 might have been enough. "I think most of the batsmen batted brilliantly, but the mistake we committed was that we went with the momentum," Dhoni said. "Maybe one of the batsmen could have realised that we had got off to a flier ... throughout the IPL and Twenty20 games we have seen that even if you go after the bowlers for [the whole of] 20 overs, you don't score more than 220-230. So you have to figure out whether you're happy with the score of 180 or 190 or whether you look for those extra 25 runs, which you might not actually need, and instead end up getting 160-odd."

In true Twenty20 spirit, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma and Yusuf Pathan went about their task, and in true New Zealand style the home bowlers stuck to their job. So while the hosts had moments where, as Daniel Vettori said, they thought they would end up chasing 300, they were set a below-par target of 163 by the time the lights took full effect.

Three incidents in the match summed up the teams' approach. Sehwag had smashed the first three balls he faced in New Zealand for sixes - he hit four in all during his 10-ball stay - but went for one hit too many. Rohit went for his second six in a row but got a leading edge off Ian Butler. Then, when Yusuf went for his fourth successive six off Nathan McCullum, Jacob Oram came up with a spectacular, making the entire process of flicking up the ball, crossing the boundary, coming back in and then taking the catch look extraordinarily easy. India were 32 in 3.1 overs, 54 in 5.2, and 82 in 9.4 at those junctures.

New Zealand applied the brakes with those wickets as the bowlers earned their rewards for being on target without attempting anything special. Vettori was wily as usual, giving little away, and despite Suresh Raina's cool-headed innings, there was only one favourite at the break.

Dhoni was not pleased with the way the target was assessed tonight but said it wasn't a premeditated ploy to put New Zealand under pressure right away. "One of the key things was to go into the middle with a blank mind, without a target," Dhoni said. "We wanted to play according to the merit of the ball, it was not a conscious effort to go after the bowlers and hit those big sixes."

Vettori said he had expected such an approach from India. In perfect weather conditions and a decent batting track, India brought out the pyrotechnics. New Zealand though, stayed cool in the face of the onslaught.

The loss of quick middle-order wickets proved to be the difference between the sides, but the entertainment came in abundance. It also showed the importance of quick assessment and thinking on the feet in the slap-bang format. The crowd lapped it up gleefully, and it should only get better from here on.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kanu on February 26, 2009, 23:09 GMT

    Biju - you are never happy with Indian team's performance are you? You have predicted "a disaster". We will see.

    At one moment, when team is winning, Dhoni is the best captain and one match we lose, people lose all their respect and start calling him "So called Mr. cool"!

    We need to focus here, don't take the defeats as personal betrayal, have patience and give our team some time.

  • Kushal on February 26, 2009, 9:38 GMT

    Disappointed, not disheartened. 1. This team is in good hands. Dhoni's admissions that field placings were a slight issue due to the small size of the field, and that none of the batsmen (save Raina) took the onus of batting thru, are honest and spot on. It was as if roles & responsibilities, which have been a hallmark of our batting recently, were forgotten and i don't see this mistake happening again. 2. I think Rohit Sharma has a great future and i think Irfan's bowling is suited to these conditions (especially opening the bowling) and one can understand the faith placed in them by Dhoni & the team management as these two players in form add aa lot of value to the team. They may consider Jadeja and PK (opening the bowling preferably) as replacements for the next game. 3. For the gent who posted that Sachin is on a free pass out here in NZ - what are you thinking?!?!?!

  • rajkumar on February 26, 2009, 8:36 GMT

    DONI will need to lead from the front.The hard hitting T20 batsman is now only looking to roate strike and from a consistant finesher he has become a doubtful batsmen whom does not know whether to go for the shots(his so called natural game) or be defensive.Why did he not come at no3 as he does always.Does he feel he will be exposed ?Winning is not every thing but to accept loss in a grace.Yes all indian wickets fell to poor (ambitious )shots.But Captain cool we need you to lead from the front.Irfan should be replaced (teperorly by Praveenkumar and rohith by Jadeeja.

  • Cricket on February 26, 2009, 8:33 GMT

    The Indian posters here will have to forgive the boisterous responses by my fellow New Zealanders who'll celebrate any kind of win over a top team like it was for a World Cup final trophy. If these Indian tourists play as they can then all Black Cap supporters will be in their usual state of depression by tour's end. I just hope for a competitive series, and an Indian loss first up at least gives the coming proceedings an edge that I'm sure we can all be glad about. One way traffic makes for boredom after all.

  • Sameer on February 26, 2009, 7:37 GMT

    I think India should not be disappointed with the loss in 20-20, as the total made by india could be a winning total in the Indian subcontinent. This means that Indian batsmen have not failed in the first international innings of a new zealand tour. Our record for 1st innings in New Zealand tour is really bad. I think it would have been a different result, if the 20-20 was held at the end of the tour. Now India should focus on One day Internationals and i firmly beleive that the current Indian team should beat the Kiwis in one day and test match. Best Luck India ! Best Luck Dhoni !

  • goutam on February 26, 2009, 6:51 GMT

    Well the bowling weakness got exposed,Irfan Pathan is just playing as batmans.Preveen kumar should replace him.Preveen came in india team as allrounder but he didnt get chance to bat at top order .only got chance in the last overs of the match. We saw him playing in domestic cricket ,he had opened the innings for UP and a good hitter of the ball too.he can also swing the ball both ways.We dont know why he is sometime out of 11 member team,even he performed well in last series.Why only rohit get many opportunity to prove himself, why not badrinath,monaj tiwary ,they are out of scene after playing ONLY 1 ODI

    goutam india

  • biju on February 26, 2009, 6:29 GMT

    I have predicted that this tour will be a disaster for India.The so called Captain cool Mr.Dhoni will defenitely feel the heat this time and will show his incompetencies.There was no professionalism in the team effort in the 1st match.The players were dominated by emotions and arrogance rather than sense and professionalism.It is time for Gary to step up and control them.

  • kris on February 26, 2009, 6:23 GMT

    Did anyone recognize the bait? The last time around NZ would prepare green tops and the NZ experts would pronounce them as a 300+ wicket, while it was actually a 120 wicket. If we won the toss, we would choose to bat(not a bad idea),but would panic when the score didn't look like getting to even 200. Time and again, we ended up not completing the 50 over quota and yet NZ struggled to beat us. The only matches we won were when we became wiser (too late) or when NZ batted first. This time the bait was to embarrass us with superlatives. We tried to be the supermen that we were supposed to and lost. We better beware of baits in a season when even the Oscar is falling for them!

  • Ankit on February 26, 2009, 6:11 GMT

    We lost coz: a) Batsmen didnt show responsibility in their individual games minus Raina & v put up a total that was 30 runs short. Rohit Sharma's batting style doesnt belong in T20s. He's a good ODI player & will probably be a decent test player but he takes too long to settle down and then throws his wicket. Ravindra Jadeja should replace him in T20s. b) Bowlers couldnt contain the batsman minus Zaheer who did a terrific job. Irfan Pathan needs to pitch the ball a little shorter than he is right now & bend his back more to extract more pace and bounce, which combined with his movement will be deadly. Until he realizes that & starts doing it, Praveen Kumar should replace him. Ishant needs to discipline his 'no balls' & really needs to try to bowl more at the stumps. The spinners need to pitch in good length or yorker areas only(good length if they are going to turn the ball)& finally Dhoni needs to be able to come in and play his natural game rather than be defensive. Well done NZ.

  • Samod on February 26, 2009, 5:49 GMT

    Perfect sanchit. I wholly support your thoughts. There is no point in having so many batsmen in the team for 20 overs...

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