India being bowled out for 92 was an aberration
Ambati Rayudu was dismissed for 0 at Seddon Park. © AFP

I had an early morning flight on Thursday but it somehow got delayed. Not that delayed, however, to allow me to watch the fourth ODI between India and New Zealand in Hamilton. When I touched down, I checked the scores to find out that the match was over in quick time.

The Indian team has had such a great time in ODIs for the past two years that even though an odd defeat is acceptable, a total of 92 all out took some time to sink in.

The first thing anyone does is to check the scorecard. No, it wasn’t Trent Boult‘s five-for that grabbed my attention. Rather it was Colin de Grandhomme‘s three wickets that got my notice.That Boult will be effective in conducive conditions is known to one and all, but de Grandhomme, whose bowling looked as friendly as that of Prerak Mankad, suddenly was way more effective. (READ MORE: Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme set up consolation win)

Once I watched an extended highlights package of Thursday’s ODI, I felt that it was one bad day at the office for India and should be treated as an aberration.

I also believe that had Virat Kohli been around, matters might not have happened like they did. That said, this team won the Asia Cup last year without Kohli.

For the first time in the series, I saw the ball swinging as much as you expect in New Zealand. During the first three ODIs the conditions were a little alien and that could be the reason for the home team bowling looking ordinary. The pitch too I thought was on the damp side. The wickets of  Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill were a good indicator of the moisture in the pitch, when the ball stopped on them. (READ MORE: New Zealand consign India to biggest ODI loss)

Even Martin Guptill in the second half of the match committed to his shot too early as it almost hit the back of the bat.

Colin de Grandhomme added to India's woes with 3/26.
Colin de Grandhomme added to India’s woes with 3/26. © AFP

Calling at the toss is not the only correct thing that Kane Williamson did in Hamilton. His captaincy was spot on with the field placements. Keeping a short cover for Ambati Rayudu was a good assessment of the conditions even though the ball was swinging around.

Could the batters have done anything differently? It is difficult to say but the best thing under these circumstances would be to play out a good spell. Unfortunately the wickets kept falling and Boult kept bowling until he has finished his ten overs in one spell. When the conditions are even a little favourable, very few bowlers can be as lethal as him. It is no wonder that Bout is the highest wicket-taker in ODIs since 2015. (READ MORE: How five-star Trent Boult jolted India in a flash)

Before the game all eyes were on young Gill’s debut. Without a shadow of doubt, he is a special talent but the question in my mind is: is this the right time with only a handful of matches left before the ICC Cricket World Cup? One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that all these ODIs are a preparation for the World Cup this summer. I have a feeling that this Indian ODI side will have a different look post the World Cup and then there will be enough time to get new players in.

But right now? I am not convinced.

Shubman Gill made 9 on his international debut for India.
Shubman Gill made 9 on his international debut for India. © AFP

What is important right now is to give your certainties for the World Cup as much game time as possible. By saying that I’m not refuting Gill’s chances for the flight to England. If the management believes that his chances of boarding that flight are as much as Vijay Shankar or Ravindra Jadeja, then by all means he should be looked in to and not just for one game, but maybe the next one in New Zealand and a few more versus Australia when they travel to India next month.

It would be unfair to judge Gill based on couple of games and that too in challenging conditions.

Talking about certainties, it seems that Dinesh Kartik, Rayadu and Kedar Jadhav have got their tickets confirmed for England but at best, two out of these three might end up playing in the XI. From that perspective, this was an opportunity missed by these three to claim their stake in the playing XI. With Virat and MS Dhoni not playing and the openers Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan getting out early, there was a chance for the middle order to stand tall and be counted.

It did not happen.

It was one of those days that you would rather forget as a nightmare and move one. There wasn’t any visible positives that the Indian side could take from it but surely a few learnings for the future that they might need in the next game itself in Wellington, which is one of the windiest cities in the world, making it a happy hunting ground for the pacers.

That also makes me think about the scheduling. Wouldn’t you want the two most difficult venues for the touring side right at the start of the series?