Five of New Zealand’s Test bowlers alongside all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme are nursing injuries.
If there is one word to describe the way New Zealand plays its cricket, it has to be clever.
Historically, they have been a cricket team blessed with good athletes, but without much flair or flash. However, they have strengthened their cricket with a lot of thought, which has helped them compete on equal terms with other teams on the international stage.
The teams have had excellent thinking leaders starting from Martin Crowe to Stephen Fleming and now Kane Williamson.
On the contrary, the Indian team most often seems to approach a cricket game relying on the flair and ability within their ranks. India adopts a brute-force method to their cricket.
When they play in familiar conditions, their instincts and ability are often enough to win them matches. Their strategies are mostly what their bodies and minds have already been conditioned to and are often easily replicated. However, when they go to an unfamiliar territory as they find themselves now in New Zealand, their instincts are found wanting.
The ongoing Test match between New Zealand and India shows quite clearly the difference in the two approaches to cricket. India have fallen to the familiar trap that they seem to find themselves in every time they tour South Africa, England or New Zealand. They failed yet again in conditions that required a game plan different from their instincts.
How many times have we seen Indian batsmen get out playing far away from their body or approach short-pitched bowling without a clear strategy suited to their capability? How many times have we seen Indian bowlers struggle to polish off the tail in these conditions and let the game get away from them by the end of the first innings? Why do the captain and the bowlers panic the minute lower-order batsmen start to put together a partnership?
These are not failings of the players but failings of the management to prepare them with a clear pre-game strategy to play under such situations.
How difficult is it for modern Indian coaches to hire some consultants to come out with definite plans to overcome these well-known deficiencies in their game and work towards ironing them out? In today’s age, these kinds of repeat failures are unpardonable. This, too, from a cricket board flush with funds and having access to the best minds in the world.
On the other side, if you look at New Zealand, they are often the first team to have worked out a way to get the better of top players. New Zealand was the first to work out a game plan to get Steven Smith out in Tests. Wasim Akram said that Martin Crowe played him the best.
Jasprit Bumrah had been a mystery for every team he has played against in recent times. However, in this series, the Kiwis seem to have gotten the better of him. All this is one of the reasons why Kiwis have overachieved in most world tournaments.
It is high time the Indian team management understood the role of planning and executing specific strategies to match-playing situations and conditions. They have in their hands the best playing personnel that India have ever assembled in Test cricket.
It is time to mix strategy with brute force to become undisputed world champions in Tests.