Top-ranked India suffered a humiliating 10-wicket defeat at the hands of hosts New Zealand in the opening Test at Wellington on Monday. After all the talks of playing like the world’s No. 1 side, Virat Kohli and Co. came a cropper against the New Zealand pace trio of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and debutant Kyle Jamieson. In fact the Indians had a mountain to climb once they were bowled out for just 165 after being put in to bat by Kane Williamson on a green top.
Though the pacers hit back to reduce New Zealand to 225/7, the Indians let the opposition tail wag for the umpteenth time in alien conditions. In the end, the Kiwis ended up with 348, a huge lead of 183. There were hopes that the Indian batsmen will give a good account of themselves in the second innings, especially since the wicket had eased out a bit. But those hopes were belied as Southee and Boult ran through the Indian batting line-up to set up a thumping win on the fourth morning.
Barring opener Mayank Agarwal, Ajinkya Rahane and to a certain extent wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, none of the Indian batsmen looked comfortable in the middle. Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, two of the senior-most Indian players, failed to get going in both innings.
Same old story
The defeat proves once again how the Indians struggle when they face tough opposition away. India may be at the top of the International Cricket Council (ICC)’s Test rankings and leading the ICC World Test Championship table, but deep down everyone knows teams are judged by how they fare in conditions away from the comforts of home.
Indian head coach Ravi Shastri had thundered that his boys will play like the No. 1 team in the two-match series and he has been forced to eat his words by a New Zealand side extremely good in its backyard. Indian vice-captain Rahane was spot on when he mentioned in his pre-match press conference that the Kiwis started favourites and the key for India was to manage a first innings total around the 320-mark. Once they were bundle out for 165, the Indians had their backs to the wall.
India need to turn it around quickly in the second and final Test at Christchurch to square the series. Kohli’s men need to show character and it’s easier said than done in a testing tour like this.