New Zealand lost the ODI series against India by 2-3 © Blackcaps (Twitter)
New Zealand lost the ODI series against India by 2-3 © Blackcaps (Twitter)

Finally, the New Zealand tour of India concluded with the fifth One-Day International (ODI) of the five match series. The match, which had become the series decider as both the teams were tied 2-2 after the first four matches, was expected to be an enthralling one which would have given a befitting end to the tour. Moreover, in the first place, the match itself was under clouds of uncertainty due to cyclone kyant, which threatened a wash out at Visakhapatnam. The match did happen, thankfully without any intervention, but it turned out to be one-way traffic as India steamrolled the visitors and registered a thumping 190-run win to pocket the series 3-2.

With the loss, New Zealand not only ended their tour on a disappointing note, failing to win even a single-leg of the tour, but also squandered yet another golden opportunity of beating India in a bilateral ODI series on their soil for the first time. In the past, the visitors were twice on the verge of beating India in India — 1995-96 and 1999-00. On both these occasions, the five-match ODI series was levelled at 2-2 after the first four games, but Team India managed to win the series by triumphing in the final ODI.

Coming to this series, though New Zealand had managed to stay alive till the final game, it was not quite a collective effort from them. Barring Tom Latham and skipper Kane Williamson, none of their batsmen took enough responsibility; something which hurt them badly. Latham finished the series as the second highest run-getter with 244 runs at 61.00 while with 211 runs at 42.20, Williamson finished third. It was Latham’s consistent performances at the top which helped New Zealand get off to decent starts in the games and set a foundation for a competitive total.

Also it was Williamson’s hundred in Delhi that won his side the close contest. Apart from these two, the other batsmen were found wanting in the series. The other opener Martin Guptill, who showed some signs of getting back to form towards the end of an otherwise forgettable Test series, continued to struggle in the ODIs. He was troubled by Indian pacer Umesh Yadav in particular, who got him on three occasions, thus making the batsman his bunny. The only innings of substance that Guptill played was in Ranchi, where his 72 helped New Zealand taste the second win on the tour and earned him the Man-of-the-Match award.

The little said about Ross Taylor’s indifferent performances the better. The senior-most player in the squad, who was expected to shoulder bulk of responsibility in the batting department, proved to be a major disappointment. Not only did he let down with his batting, his poor fielding too cost the side dearly. In Mohali, where New Zealand somehow managed to post 285 on the board and looked to challenge India, Taylor dropped Virat Kohli on the individual score of six. As it happened, Kohli went on to score unbeaten 154; making short work of New Zealand bowling and helping India take 2-1 lead in the series.

It did not end here, as in the series decider he once again dropped a relatively easier catch of Rohit Sharma. Though this time it did not hurt his side as Rohit was dismissed soon after. The contributions made by other batsmen in the middle-order are not even worth mentioning here. Luke Ronchi scored a mere 6 runs in 3 games, BJ Watling got 14 in 2, Mitchell Santner got 37 in 5 games and Corey Anderson 31 in 4 outings. This is precisely where New Zealand lost the series, as lack of runs from the middle-order remained their Achilles’ heel.

Another problem area for the Kiwis was their all-rounders not stepping up. The side has predominantly relied on the all-rounders for a long time now. In the past, the likes of Chris Cairns, Chris Harris, Scott Styris, Jacob Oram, James Franklin, Jesse Ryder, Grant Elliott and to a reasonable extent, Daniel Vettori played the role efficiently. They contributed both with the bat as well as ball in the matches they played for their country, thus playing a major role in their side’s success.

However, in this particular series, their all-rounders proved to be the bits and pieces players in the end, as they neither made any significant contribution with the bat, nor with the ball. The exceptions were of course there, with Jimmy Neesham scoring a vital 57 at Mohali when his team needed and bowler Tim Southee hammering 55 in the first game at Dharamsala to lend some respectability to his team’s total. Apart from that, there was no performance which was noteworthy as the likes of Santner, Neesham, Anderson and Anton Devcich failed to leave an impression.

As far as bowling is concerned, New Zealand did well in patches. In the first game, their bowlers could not have been blamed as the batsmen failed to give them a score to play with. But it was their bowlers who helped them win the second ODI at Delhi by a close margin of 7 runs. Trent Boult, Southee, Matt Henry; all played their part in that win. Though Williamson’s hundred stole the show, but if truth be told, it was the bowlers who scripted that win.

In Mohali, their bowlers ran into a rampaging Kohli and MS Dhoni and lost the game. But they did create the chances and if Kohli’s catch at 6 would have been taken, things and perhaps result too could have been different. The bowlers then helped New Zealand conquer Ranchi before conceding an above par total in the series decider at Visakhapatnam.

On the whole, New Zealand did not fare badly in the series. What they lacked was consistency. Their opponents, in fact, too were equally inconsistent but slight luck and some extraordinary individual performances won them the series. Once they get back to their homes, they will have a few areas to address. The opening dilemma, middle-order woes and misfiring all-rounders; these are the problem areas they need to address and fix before they can think of winning the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in England.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)