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India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Day 1 Review

Catches win Matches

Clearly the Indian slip cordon did not pay attention to the above-noted well-known cricket saying. Either they didn’t know their boundaries (when Dhawan dived ahead of Ashwin to spill a chance off Zaheer’s first ball to Fulton), or they had stopped paying attention (Vijay’s drop off Williamson), or were standing too deep (several chances across the day). With India’s limited bowling attack in such conditions, you almost have to ensure that you do everything else right to stand a chance in the game. Dhoni’s men did not do so today.

As soon as they had New Zealand on the ropes at 30/3, they should’ve capitalized by going hard at the batsmen, attacking their stumps. Yet, Ishant Sharma, buoyed by his two-wicket dream spell (of which one was due to a false shot by Ross Taylor and a beautiful catch by Jadeja), started to rest on his laurels and bowled short for the rest of the day. Not least was this exemplified by his absolutely shocking first over with the second new ball, which went for 15 runs.

Additionally, Dhoni’s tactics once again need to be called into question. There is not an iota of doubt that he is the right man to lead the country, but his tactics in test matches overseas are baffling (read: overly defensive). Several times during the day, I thought he could’ve used an alternative approach. And this time, it wasn’t that different people take different approaches. It’s just that his approach was completely wrong. As my friend Arjun Vaidya put it, it’s “Cricket 101.”

Firstly, he shouldn’t have bowled Virat Kohli as the first over after lunch. That is the over where batsmen can be caught napping. That is not when you bowl dibbly dobbly in-swingers at 60 miles an hour. That is when you bowl your best bowler. Either Shami or Zaheer should’ve taken that over.

Secondly, Jadeja had no business bowling 20 overs on the first day given the wicket. That wicket was a green top to start with, and while it eased out during the course of the day, spinners are unlikely to get any purchase until day 3 of a New Zealand test wicket.

Thirdly, he should’ve had 3 slips in for Corey Anderson when he came in. Anderson fended one from Zaheer exactly to where third slip would’ve been, who would’ve pouched that one with his eyes closed (or would he have? given India’s pathetic fielding display). Are the bowler and captain not communicating their plans to each other?

Even if Dhoni missed having the third slip by accident, which can happen, what baffled me even more was that he then proceeded to bring Rohit Sharma and Jadeja into the attack to let Anderson get himself in. As a number 6, after having edged one through the slips, and are nervous, you would jump at the opportunity to play innocuous spin on a first day track at Eden Park. Dhoni probably did that to save his seamers for the new ball, but by then Anderson was in, McCullum had recovered from a brief shell where he made sure he kept one end going once Williamson was gone so as to not open the floodgates for India, and the rest is history (aka 329/4).

Dhoni’s captaincy, his fielders and his bowlers have basically given India a less than 10% chance of winning this match from here on in. I for one, am completely sick of these utterly crap performances overseas and am probably not going to watch much of the rest of this test match if I can help it.

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