Losing a series at home by a big margin just months ahead of the ICC World Cup 2019, will definitely ring alarm bells for New Zealand. In the ongoing five-match series against India, the Kiwis have gone down 0-3 and could be in for a white-wash. This is what skipper Kane Williamson would not have wanted given that New Zealand offered nothing significant.
Since 2013, New Zealand had not lost three successive games at home, but India have kept the hosts at bay. There is a huge gap evident between the two sides and all the talk of the Kiwis being a top unit for the World Cup, has suddenly taken another direction. The manner in which the home team has conceded the ongoing series comes as a surprise after their dominance against Sri Lanka weeks ago.
“It has been a step-up in opposition, and at the same time, India winning the key moments has put us under pressure,” Ross Taylor said after the third match. The veteran batsman was right in his analysis of what’s been the difference all of a sudden. New Zealand have issues at large and that have come to surface in this series. The squad is yet to be settled and with less than four months left for the world event, the Black Caps should worry.
The main concern for the hosts have been their batting. The runs have dried up and for three successive matches they were bowled out inside 50 overs. Indian bowlers have made the difference, but the Kiwis are to be blamed equally for throwing themselves in unfriendly situations quite often. Lack of application and precision hurt them.
The Kiwis lost to England at home last season in the ODIs and now another big defeat against India highlights the concerns. Big teams have come here and hurt them. Here we analyse the issues New Zealand are currently dealing with, as they head into the World Cup starting from May 30 onwards in England and Wales.
Openers have been dismal
New Zealand’s batting, in particular, has let them down. The opening position is the biggest worry at the moment. The Kiwi openers have averaged a dismal 11.85 in their last 14 outings. 1The scores read (most recent first) 10, 23, 5, 16, 34, 23, 3, 14, 13, 1, 0, 12, 6, 6. Now this is huge disadvantage for a side going into the World Cup. What is does is that the middle order is exposed too soon and there is an added pressure.
At a time when several top teams are thriving with their openers in the 50-over format, New Zealand are in a shell. In contrast, India have won so many matches due to their openers delivering consistently. Colin Munro in particular has been in shambles. He has been handed so many opportunities, but sadly he hasn’t taken them.
Since the start of 2018, Munro has amassed just three fifties. In nine matches he has scored below 10 runs with four ducks among them. This is poor in international standards. The accuracy presented by Indian pacers in this series frustrated Munro. He played nothing shots and was forced to go hard. New Zealand need a solution as things cannot continue like this for them.
Martin Guptill has struggled to get going as well and a player of his calibre needs to be more sharp. Kiwis need one of their openers to bat for longer periods and keep them in the hunt. Guptill, who can burst into life with big hundreds, will need to take a leaf out from someone like Rohit Sharma in particular.
Guptill has managed just 48 runs from the last five ODIs, all of which was played at home. Not getting the shield from the openers have hurt the Kiwis badly.
Team too dependent on Taylor and Williamson
Ross Taylor has been by far New Zealand’s best batsman since 2018. His heroics last year saw him being named in the ICC ODI Team of the Year this month. Taylor has brought his experience into play and that has guided him well in this series as well. The veteran right-handed batsman amassed 639 runs from just 11 matches in 2018.
The average of 91.28 helped his cause and saw NZ do well in the ODIs. In this series as well, the middle order batsman found his natural instincts in a classy 93 in the third ODI. Prior to that he got starts, but couldn’t convert the same. Now take Taylor out, then the only other player that has scored is Kane Williamson. The 28-year-old scored 468 runs last year that included two centuries.
Williamson like Taylor, is the fulcrum of this side and no wonder the Kiwis are happy to play through their experience. But there is a clear indication of dependency here and a lack of penetration from the rest. Losing 3-4 wickets ahead of 25 overs often puts a team behind in terms of a cushion, and New Zealand have faced the same.
The hosts cannot be repeating the same if they want to go ahead and make it far in the World Cup. Teams like that of India and England will come out and hurt them more than often. New Zealand have not been able to play the Indian spinners and have conceded wickets.
What Williamson needs to do here is Marshall his troops and come up with a Plan B if they keep facing issues in batting. With limited time on offer, the going could get difficult for the New Zealand camp.
Question marks prevail for NZ
This is not a pleasant sight for a spinner, especially when Indian spinners have done so well in the same conditions. Jimmy Neesham had recently made a comeback to the ODI side after almost two years during the home series against Sri Lanka.
He was terrific and smashed ten sixes in the three games he played before injuring his hamstring. Leg-spinner Todd Astle, who replaced Ish Sodhi, has played only 11 international matches. He too was sidelined for a long time with a knee injury.
Can these players prove to be game changers against India? Can they stay fit and perform at the same time in preparations up till the World Cup?
Also the pace bowling depth is an issue. Besides Trent Boult, the rest of the pack remain unsure. So that reduces their chances of picking 10 wickets against oppositions. Tim Southee has been starved of wickets off late, His form as a senior bowler in this side has let New Zealand down.
Southee was leading New Zealand’s pace attack four years ago at the World Cup in Australia and has been persisted with despite below-par returns in the Sri Lanka series but the hosts haven’t shied away from benching the senior pacer in recent times. Lockie Ferguson gets his side the wickets, but he often goes for plenty. So there is a lot of missing ends in this New Zealand squad at the moment.