IMAGE: India opener Shikhar Dhawan scored 72 off 77 balls in the first One-Day International against New Zealand, but was unable to get going in the Powerplay. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images
India will expect a better approach from skipper Shikhar Dhawan and young Shubman Gill in the Powerplay overs when the team clashes with New Zealand in a do-or-die second One-Day International, in Hamilton, on Sunday.
The Seddon Park is a three-way open ground, known for being one of the friendliest batting tracks in New Zealand where willow wielders get value for their shots.
In the first ODI in Auckland Dhawan (72 off 77) and Gill (50 off 65 balls) put on 123 in their opening stand, but, on a small Eden Park ground, the score of 306 for 7 was at least 40 runs short of par score.
Though the bowlers could be taken to task for conceding those runs in just over 47 overs, the buck stops at the main batters. Had Washington Sundar not come up with a brilliant cameo India would not have touched the 300-run mark.
It was largely due to the safety-first approach of the Indian openers during the first 10 Powerplay overs where the runs did not come at a desirable pace.
Moeen Ali, in a recent interview, spoke about how in earlier times teams followed the Australian template in white ball cricket and now it is the English way that is being aped by the teams.
That is where India lags. They were at least 40 runs short in the first Powerplay overs in Auckland.
Sample another piece of statistics which will give an idea that the problem lies in the general outlook of Indian top-order batters across limited overs formats (not just Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul or Virat Kohli).
Dhawan scored 72 off 77 balls, which was studded with 13 fours. So effectively, he scored 52 runs in boundaries in 13 deliveries. He scored another 20 runs off 64 deliveries, out of which 44 were dot balls as he was unable to get going in the Powerplay.
As the skipper struggled, at the other end Gill did not do his overall averages any harm by stacking up another half-century, but the pace of his innings was also a debatable one.
His 50 was scored off 65 balls, inclusive of three sixes and a boundary. This means 22 runs were scored from four deliveries. He scored the remaining 28 off 61 deliveries.
The same approach of just building the foundation and leaving the heavy-lifting for the back-end has cost India a T20 World Cup but, strangely, even as personnel changed in ODIs for the ongoing series the approach has remains archaic.
With so many players jostling for opening slots, it is imperative that the players score heavily so that the numbers cannot be ignored when the new selectors prune the pool to around 20, at least three to four months before the 50-over marquee event.
While Dhawan will certainly open with Rohit in Bangladesh next month, there aren’t any guarantees that Shubman will retain his place in the playing eleven, as Rohit will return as an opener.
KL Rahul could take Suryakumar Yadav’s (rested for next series) middle-order slot.
Rishabh Pant has a way better ODI strike-rate and average compared to T20Is but the vice-captain for this series needs to be more consistent in order to keep the big gloves away from Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan, who are hot on his heels.
As Virender Sehwag, a few weeks earlier had said that Pant needs to decide first what will be his style of batsmanship.
At the moment, the marauder from Rourkee seems to be in a state of limbo: whether to attack or defend. The sooner he finds his bearings, the better it will be for the ODI core team.
Bowlers need to find fuller lengths
At Eden Park, which has short and weird dimensions, India’s pacers bowled way too short. They will need to find a way to counter Tom Latham and Kane Williamson, who have both been consistent against India over the years in this format.
While Umran Malik was impressive bowling northwards of 145 clicks, Arshdeep Singh, despite his ability to get the swing, struggled for pace and Shardul Thakur was generally erratic.
The toss will be an important factor, as batting becomes easier at the Seddon Park as the evening wears on.
If India can chase, it will do them a world of good, as the spinners won’t have to encounter the dew factor during the evening hours.
Whether Kuldeep Yadav will be tried out instead of Yuzvendra Chahal remains to be seen as the ground is slightly bigger for his comfort.
India: Shikhar Dhawan (captain), Shubman Gill, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Deepak Hooda, Shahbaz Ahmed, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Deepak Chahar, Arshdeep Singh, Shardul Thakur and Umran Malik.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Finn Allen, Devin Conway, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Glenn Phillips, Michael Bracewell, Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Adam Milne, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner and Lockie Ferguson.
Match starts: 7 am IST.