Stunned India aim to strike back

Focus on batting as Dhoni's men take on New Zealand in the second ODI today

Stunned India aim to strike back

Handed a shock defeat in the opening match, world number one India would look to plug their loopholes in batting and bowling when they square off against New Zealand in the second one-day international here on Wednesday.

Chasing a formidable 293 in the opening game in Napier, India seemed on track for a win before a middle-order collapse uined their plans

What lay exposed was India’s over-reliance on a certain Virat Kohli, left standing tall amid the ruins with a sparkling hundred. Suresh Raina’s form has been a big concern while the two openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have not given India the flourishing start expected of them.

Also, India’s bowling will have to be a lot sharper in the coming matches given that the home batsmen negotiated the visiting attack without much difficulty in the series-opener.

With pacer Ishant Sharma and off-spinner R Ashwin not making much of an impression in overseas conditions, it remains to be seen whether the team management will consider making changes to the bowling line-up.

It is no secret that the team’s fortunes are heavily dependent on Kohli’s bat. His hundred the other day was his 18th overall in just 126 matches, with another 28 fifties to boot.

It is important to note that out of the 46 times he has scored a half-century or more, India finished victorious in 32 matches.

India’s batting worries start at the top of the order. Rohit Sharma’s scores in three ODIs in South Africa and New Zealand so far have been 18, 19 and 3.

Shikhar Dhawan’s scores in the same matches have been 12, 0 and 32. Their best partnership during this time is 15 runs, put up in Napier, while together they scored 14 and 10 in Johannesburg and Durban. India have lost all three matches.

Compare this with their brilliant run last year until the West Indies series at home when they put up 1247 runs in 22 matches at an average of 59.38, helping the team win on 16 instances. Barring Kohli, others in the order too have struggled.

The team’s think-tank has experimented with quite a few names in 2013, especially at number four and five, with Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Ambati Rayudu, Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay, Kohli and Dhoni himself having batted there.

True, the team management has problems to sort out on the bowling front but the harsh reality is that they need to focus on finding batsmen who can contribute to the team’s cause, particularly while playing overseas considering the World Cup in 12 months’ time.

Meanwhile, for Brendon McCullum, there are fewer worries having taken an early lead in the series. If at all, they need only to focus on not taking the visitors lightly, who, on paper atleast, are a much stronger unit than the hosts.

The more pressing concern is about replacing 21-year-old fast bowler Adam Milne in the playing XI after he was sidelined from the rest of the series with a torn abdominal muscle. While 26-year-old medium pacer Hamish Bennett has taken his place in the squad, Kyle Mills is expected to play instead.

Hamilton has witnessed steady rain for the two days leading up to this second ODI and curator Andrew Brown believed that “the under-cover pitch will have something in it for the bowlers.”

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