After a crushing ten-wicket defeat at Wellington in the first test, the number one ranked test side was expected to bounce back at the Hagley Oval in the next fixture. Despite a seven-run first-innings lead, the batting collapse in the second innings (124 all out) at Christchurch once again made life difficult for the visitors who lost the encounter by seven wickets as New Zealand chased down the target of 132 runs with the loss of just three wickets.
With this defeat, Team India suffered yet another series whitewash on this tour having lost all three matches in the ODI series earlier. Though the Men in Blue started off the tour on a high by clinching the T20I series 5-0, skipper Virat Kohli and the Indian team management have a lot to ponder about after the disappointing results in ODIs as well as Tests.
Despite losing the ODI series, India put up a comparatively stronger display of batting in those three games which they couldn’t replicate in the tests. Team India missed several proven players who could have helped them perform better in the test matches given their credentials, experience and the familiarity with the pitch conditions.
On that note, let us look at four players Team India missed in the just-concluded two-match test series which Kane Williamson’s men clinched 2-0.
Here are the four players:
1. Rohit Sharma
India’s limited-overs vice-captain who featured in four out of five T20Is against New Zealand was ruled out of the ODI series as well the two test matches due to a calf injury. Rohit Sharma’s absence was not just felt in the 50-over format but also in the tests given his experience, stroke play and the kind of impact he can provide at the top-of-the-order.
Though Shubman Gill replaced Hitman in the Test squad, he did not get an opportunity to prove himself as Prithvi Shaw opened the innings alongside Mayank Agarwal at Wellington and Christchurch. Playing his first-ever test match outside India, young Shaw couldn’t make much of an impact at Basin Reserve having managed just 16 and 14 runs respectively.
Although he bounced back strongly by amassing a half-century in the first innings at Hagley Oval, he failed to get going in the second innings. Also, India’s highest run-getter in Tests last year Mayank Agarwal who was expected to continue his impressive run wasn’t consistent in providing solid starts for the visitors. Thus, Rohit Sharma being side-lined due to injury weakened the Indian batting line-up which suffered a major collapse in both the matches.
2. KL Rahul
It was really surprising to see a versatile player like KL Rahul being excluded from the test squad despite the recent heroics both with the bat as well as behind the stumps. The Karnataka batsman would have been a valuable addition to the squad given his ability to contribute runs despite coming in at different positions according to the team’s needs.
Currently plying his trade in the Ranji Trophy, Rahul has gone on to become an integral part of Indian’s limited-overs set up given his exploits and was expected to make the cut for the two-match test series. The 27-year-old who last played a test match against West Indies in August-September last year deserved a chance to prove himself in the longer format.
Rishabh Pant who was chosen over Wriddhiman Saha managed just 60 runs in four innings with his highest score being 25 in the second innings of the first test. Instead, Rahul who is in the form of his life and has already displayed his credentials against New Zealand in their own backyard during the T20Is and ODIs would have been a better choice in the XI.
3. Hardik Pandya
The all-rounder who returned to action in the ongoing 2020 DY Patil T20 tournament was last seen in an Indian jersey in September 2019 against South Africa at Bengaluru after which he was ruled out due to a back problem. The 26-year-old who underwent surgery in October last year was expected to return at least for the two test matches against New Zealand.
Despite being named in India A’s squad for the three unofficial ODIs against New Zealand A, Pandya who was seen bowling in the nets during India’s ODI series against Australia in January eventually pulled out of the series due to fitness issues. He would have been yet another valuable addition to the test squad against Kiwis given his ability to bolster the middle order as well as the pace attack.
The Mumbai Indians star who last played a test match in September 2018 against England at Southampton managed 164 runs and 10 wickets in that series which the hosts won 4-1. Given his all-round prowess, Pandya’s inclusion in the Test squad might strengthen Team India’s line-up, especially during in an away series like this given his reliability as a middle-order batsman and useful right-arm medium-fast spells.
4. Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Bhuvneshwar last played a game for India against West Indies at Mumbai (T20I) in December last year after which he was ruled out due to a groin injury. Like Pandya, the Sunrisers Hyderabad player has also returned to action in the ongoing 2020 DY Patil tournament although he was expected to make his comeback during 2020 IPL which kicks-off on March 29th.
The 30-year-old who was an integral part of the Indian pace attack during Men in Blue’s limited-overs tour of New Zealand in January-February last year (three wickets in T20Is and seven wickets in ODIs), would have been an obvious choice in the squad this time, but unfortunately had to miss the flight after being sidelined due to the injury he sustained while playing against the Men from the Caribbean.
With the conditions aiding swing, it couldn’t have got any better if a fully-fit ‘swing master’ had made the cut for the tests. Given his ability to swing the cherry, the Meerut-born speedster could have utilized the conditions to his favour and tormented the batsmen just like the Kiwi pacers did. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Virat Kohli’s men who missed Bhuvneshwar Kumar badly in the Test series.
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