India lost the match against New Zealand in opening match of T20 World Cup 2016 by 47 runs at Nagpur © AFP
India lost the match against New Zealand in opening match of T20 World Cup 2016 by 47 runs at Nagpur © AFP

India have fond memories of the last time they played an international game at Nagpur. However, most of the cricket fraternity expressed outrage at that pitch. This time too a rank turner was prepared, but three-and-a-half months after India dispatched South Africa, what transpired in India’s opening game of the ICC World T20 2016 against New Zealand shows India’s spin-friendly strategy may have backfired. November 2015 was quite a cricketing week. The highlight was Phillip Hughes’ first death anniversary. Then there was the first-ever day-night Test. But there was something else that had its share of limelight. India beat South Africa at Nagpur on a pitch that was rated “poor” by ICC, and it came under a lot of criticism from the cricket fraternity. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs New Zealand, T20 World Cup 2016, Match 13 at Nagpur

Glenn Maxwell went to the extent of calling it “diabolical.” Test cricket presents you with varied conditions and quite rightly, India’s Test captain Virat Kohli went on to defend the surface. The rest was history; India beat South Africa 3-0 and that meant the visitors were beaten in an overseas tour for the first time in nine years.

Cricket expert Harsha Bhogle was one of the harsh critics of the surface used during the Nagpur Test as he felt it killed the competition between bat and ball. In the World T20 2016, chasing a meagre 127 against New Zealand, India had succumbed to 43 for 7 in the 11th over. Bhogle could not resist tweeting, ” Is its own web dangerous for a spider?” READ: India’s batting against New Zealand in ICC World T20 2016 an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions

Led by Ravichandran Ashwin and ably supported by Ravindra Jadeja, India have a potent spin attack and once again they looked forward to exploit the Nagpur surface. The question was always how Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and co. would negate India’s spin threat. As expected, they failed. But once again, there was a lesson learned here: skills are supplemental and most of it is in the mind.

Young Williamson once again showed that he has a very able head on his shoulders. Filling up the massive shoes of Brendon McCullum for the first time as a full-time skipper, he took the bold decision to not play his usual strike bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee, instead packing the team with as many as three spinners. READ: India vs New Zealand, T20 World Cup 2016: What was worse, Nagpur’s pitch or India’s batting?

In doing so, he beat India at their own game. The Indians, who have struggled against quality spin in recent years, fell like ninepins as the trio of Nathan McCullum, Mitchell Santner, and Ish Sodhi claimed nine wickets among them. There were definite signs of complacency  from the Indians, but that in no way takes away from the Kiwi spinners.

A circle seems to be complete for India at Nagpur. A few months ago, their spinners aided by the surface bowled them to a glorious series win against the then-No. 1 Test side. And now in a crucial world mega-event, India’s limitation to handle quality spin and that too on a rank turner, saw them go down in their opening game. Perhaps India will want to rethink their strategy to go ahead with extreme spin-friendly wickets. No need to press the panic button. India have won 10 out of their 12 T20Is this year.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)