India vs New Zealand Bangalore Test: Can the Black Caps solve spin puzzle?

Biswajit Jha

Bangalore: New Zealand lost twenty wickets in the Hyderabad Test. Out of those twenty, they lost eighteen wickets to the Indian spinners. The statistics should be enough to suggest New Zealand’s sufferings against the spin bowling, a weakness which would not allow any team to do well in India.

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It’s not that the New Zealand team in the past has performed remarkably in India. Spin has never been their forte. They have always struggled against the moving ball and conditions back home are quite different from what we have here in India.

But there were several teams which showed tremendous fighting skills against the spin which resulted in a better show than by the current team touring India. New Zealand are known for their fighting spirit. It’s a fact that they have always performed better than their potential.

When New Zealand visited India in 2003-04, the fighting skills were there for everyone to see. They drew both the Tests in that series, which is something any foreign team can be proud of. The preparations were there, intent was there, and the application was there too.

But sadly, the present team appear to be unaware how to counter the spin. They were bamboozled ad flabbergasted against both R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha in the first Test. Their technique and application against the spin bowling were found wanting in the first Test which they lost by a huge margin of an innings and 115 runs.

Is it merely a technical issue? The experts say that apart from the technical shortcomings, what prevents players from tackling spin bowling is their mental block against the turning balls. Only Kane Williamson scored a half-century against the Indians in the first Test. He made a cautious 52 in the second innings.

The other New Zealand batsmen can take some lessons from the young batsman. During his knock Williamson looked positive against Ashwin and Ojha. He always tried to get to the pitch of the ball rather than pushing forward tentatively. It helped him tackle the spinners in a better way.

The other batsmen in his team were always rooted to the crease which helped Indian spinners produce edges and got them out caught by close-in fielders.

Some say attack is the best form of defence, for it works more often than not. Sometimes it helps you to upset the rhythm of the bowlers which actually gives you the time and space to settle down. Some players, who are good against spin, start taking on the bowlers from the word go. It compels the opposition captain to take the close-in fielders out to the boundary lines. But sadly, not a single New Zealand player showed the courage to attack.

There is hardly any doubt that this New Zealand outfit is the worst in many years. They lost 0-2 to West Indies before coming to India. And in the first Test in Hyderabad, they surrendered meekly. Unless they improve their technique and overcome their mental blockade, they won’t be able to do well in India. The second Test at Bangalore, which starts from Friday (August 31), is the make or break Test for them.

At a time when the Test cricket is fighting hard to attract audience, a belligerent touring team is the need of the hour. Nobody goes to watch a one-sided affair, for it’s the closely contested fight which is the core of any sporting battle.