Let this much be said first: it’s a miracle New Zealand came so close to winning in Ahmedabad with their weak bowling. India tend to reserve their worst performances for the beginning of a series, and unless New Zealand have new tricks up their sleeves, they could be hammered in Hyderabad and Nagpur.
But before that, India badly need a batting order shake-up. Gautam Gambhir is in no form and Rahul Dravid’s hundred was hardly convincing. They’re still playing for their places in the side, and this will burden Sehwag, Tendulkar and Laxman, while unfairly keeping out Vijay and Pujara.
That New Zealand could reduce the world No. 1 side to 15-5 before the first bowling change is truly remarkable — especially when they had just two Test-class bowlers. Chris Martin’s heroic new-ball spell argued that the Kiwis aren’t to be taken lightly. Unfortunately, the argument couldn’t be sustained.
Harbhajan Singh, batting at No. 8, bettered his highest career score twice in one match. This tells you much about the pitch and the quality of bowling. This is not to demean Harbhajan’s contributions. He’s done his job, and then some. That the job would be done was rarely in doubt. That it was done by the No. 8 begs for some changes to the top-order.
Gambhir’s third duck in five innings, and Dravid’s recent tendency to go after everything with hard, nervous hands contributed to Sunday’s collapse. One must ask if there’s a compelling reason to take these two to South Africa. Even if there is one in Dravid’s case, what long-term problems will it solve?
In Gambhir’s case, he merely had to survive the first hour before feasting on the weak second line of attack. He’s lost his best chance to work his way into form. Speaking of his record-breaking run of scores now is pointless: it happened nine months ago. He needs to prove himself all over again.