Heads up: India's pretty good. I'm not convinced that Sri Lanka are going to be doing anything substantial at the World Cup and while it was fun to enjoy the fireworks of piling on 300+ runs batting first every game, the Blackcaps are now doggy-paddling in the deep end against a strong Indian outfit. It's not just that this Indian team is good because India have always had good players, there's a different vibe to this group under Virat Kohli that even excites me as a socks and jandals type of kiwi.
India have good players and as I alluded to in the preview of this series, they are came to Aotearoa after spending much of the summer in Australia. Consider how Mohammed Shami steamed in to send deliveries through the respective gates of Martin Guptill and Colin Munro, both wickets falling within the first 5 overs and the tone was set. A lot was and will be made of the Indian spinners, yet their seamers go alright as well and especially when they have spent plenty of time in similar conditions to Aotearoa recently.
This idea also applies to the spinners, specifically Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Instead of coming to Aotearoa fresh off of bowling in India, Yadav was part of the Test squad and they both played in the ODI's vs Australia. Also a factor here is that they are leggies - Yadav's a lefty leggy and Chahal a leggy leggy - which is an art form that takes on a different dimension on pitches with a bit more bounce.
McLean Park wasn't super bouncy, nor the hard (flat) deck we've come to expect but it still offered enough natural variation for the two leggies to thrive. When a team like India comes to Aotearoa, there's a lot of chat about what type of pitches we want to churn out in favour of the Blackcaps; if India have good seamers and wrist spinners though, it doesn't really matter.
So yeah, India are good. They have plans and everything they do follows on from the vibrant vibes of Virat. Even MS Dhoni who is as mellow as your mate after a couple buckies, is still the best wicket-keeper in the world and while he's not operating with the same intensity as Kohli, there's still an ninja aspect to his glove work.
All of the India hype above had to be thrown up out of my system. I like Kohli, I think he's an exceptional leader and I like watching funky cricket teams. Any team with two wrist spinners is going to have my attention. Don't worry as I won't be gushing over India throughout the series.
Two wrist spinners, so where was Ish Sodhi?
And why did the Blackcaps forget how to bat?
Where was the buzz that headlined their work vs Sri Lanka?
These questions and any other questions that you may have, don't need to be answered.
This was a great game with the World Cup in mind. You only learn in losses and getting ambushed in the first ODI of a fairly long series (more than three games!) is nothing to be bummed about, as long as moves are made to rectify these errors. Everything has been far too honki-dory against a Sri Lanka team that won't crack World Cup semi-finals and kiwi fans, along with the Blackcaps needed this challenge.
We also know that there already have been and will continue to be many ins/outs from game to game as everyone gets a run - this was made crystal clear in the naming of the squad for this series. I can however also see the same team getting a chance in the second game to right their wrongs as I don't believe that the selections, or balance of the team is why the Blackcaps lost. Their performances lost them this game, out-played in all areas.
Coach Gaz and Kane Williamson may then, roll out the same 11 to see what happens and whether they can rectify matters. My gut feel though, is that this 11 resembles the boring Blackcaps teams that have been solid without offering enough pizzazz to beat the best teams.
There is little to no x-factor in a bowling attack of Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson, Doug Bracewell and Mitchell Santner. Such a bowling attack is a decent option when 300 runs are on the board and batsmen have to have a crack, but when you need wickets against the world's best batsmen, you need a weapon, or numerous weapons.
The Santner vs Sodhi battle is interesting, however it reflects the typical kiwi attitude of not stepping outside the box. India only hit one boundary off Santner in 7ov, they didn't need to attack him and could work him around without taking any or few risks. As a lone spinner, regardless of how many runs are on the board, I'm not fizzing about Santner being the weapon. The Santner and Sodhi combo though is completely different, especially on pitches that Santner/Sodhi have grown up on.
Their combo is far more exciting than Santner by himself, or even Sodhi by himself. Doug Bracewell's kinda the same as Santner in the sense that he's a plain seamer who was splendid in his 7ov @ 3.28rpo for 1w, who could be enhanced with a weapon operating at the other end.
Such 'make up of the bowling attack' ponderings that are coming off the top of my dome, get funky when it boils down to sussing out who are the weapons. Aside from Trent Boult and Tim Southee with the new-ball etc, Lockie Ferguson and Sodhi have been the leading bowlers in the last two series. This adds weight to my yarn a few days ago about Ferguson and Sodhi being the most interesting Blackcaps for this series, because they are the x-factors.
Whether Ferguson can maintain his success against these Indian batsmen who won't be overly fussed by his speed, is a huge point of intrigue. As I work my way through these freestyle ponderings, I get to a point where I'm wanting Sodhi in the attack (I merely think he was rested with an idea to give Santner the opportunity) and it's either Ferguson or Bracewell who has to make way.
I'll let that thought simmer in your loins as we await the nek game on Saturday.
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Peace and love 27.