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IND vs NZ 2021, Team India’s Report Card: Home Domination Continues

India beat New Zealand by 372 runs to register their 14th consecutive Test series win at home. Virat Kohli and his men continue to be a formidable opponent in home conditions. Although it was a two-match series against world champions New Zealand, it gave a peek into Team India’s bench strength and preparedness for the upcoming tour of South Africa.

We rated the players on the basis of these two games from a maximum of ten points and assessed how their future is likely to pan out.

Virat Kohli: Kohli wasn’t available in Kanpur. In Mumbai, he returned and so did his aggression. Besides chirping from his usual slip position, he made some aggressive bowling changes. An Indian win was a certainty after Kiwis were bundled out for 62 in the first innings, but even then he never looked like delaying the inevitable. He wanted to win ASAP and made bowling changes accordingly. The only thing that was left much desired was his batting. A duck in the first innings was followed by a scratchy 36 but he did show some intent. Who knows, had he was not given out wrongly, he could have scored some big runs.

Rating: 4/10

Ajinkya Rahane: Rahane’s batting left a lot to be desired. But at the same time, it can’t be ignored that he got two very good balls in Kanpur. Unfortunately, it came to such an extent that he had to be excused of the Wankhede Test on behalf of an injury. Meanwhile, he accounted for just 39 runs in the whole series which is just insufficient at the moment to keep his place in the Indian middle order, especially with abundance of talent they have at their disposal.

Rating: 3/10

Cheteshwar Pujara: Similar to Rahane, Pujara was too under the pump due to the knack of runs heading into the series, but his 47-run knock in the second innings at the Wankhede would have come as a relief for the Test specialist. But that doesn’t address run drought. Just like Kohli, Pujara’s international hundred came two years back. Pujara, in wanting to be more defensive than ever, seem to get stuck. A case in point could be the third morning at Wankhede where Tim Southee attacked him with short balls. He, hung back, stopped scoring runs and in the end, perished. Bowlers around the world are figuring him out. It’s high time he changed his tack.

Rating: 4/10

Mayank Agarwal: Scoring runs under pressure is nothing new for Mayank. A lot of hard work has gone behind his Test match batting. Remember him donning RCB jersey in IPL 2011 as an up-and-coming batter? Yes, he has come a long way. But that didn’t guarantee him anything. It’s only recently he found himself being pushed to the fringes with his good friend KL Rahul and youngster Shubman Gil being preferred. However, he roared back to form with a superb 150 in the second Test. Being one of the better players of spin when on song, he stepped out to the spinners on several occasions, and put his shots to good use. All in all, he wasn’t playing the waiting game. Come second innings, he again scored a fifty. The bottom line is Mayank might still not be the first-choice opener in South Africa, but he showed the world how mentally strong he is. He belongs at this level.

Rating: 7.5/10

Shreyas Iyer: Iyer had to wait for a long time to make his Test debut. But that’s not surprising. Have a look at that middle-order and you know Iyer is lucky to get a game. Nonetheless, coming from the Mumbai school of cricket, he knows how to make the most of his opportunities and that too with panache. A century on debut was followed by a fighting fifty in the second innings. Only thing he could have hoped for was an outright win in Kanpur. The 27-year-old not only gave some good headache to the team management with his bat, he also gave Rahane—vice captain—a run for the money.

Rating: 8/10

Shubman Gill: Before the series began, there were reports that Gill will have to bat in the middle-order. But as the luck would have it, KL Rahul got injured and the youngster found himself at the top. All in all, he impressed yet again. In Kanpur, he accounted for a superb fifty (52) which saw both his qualities—defensive as well as offensive—coming to the fore. In Mumbai, he again pushed his case with scores of 44 and 47. The second innings score of 47 saw some huge shots where the youngster put his feet to good advantage. Gill can serve India at this position for years to come. The only downside was the manner he was getting out. With the front foot not getting planted enough to the pitch of the delivery, Gill has been susceptible to the incoming deliveries, leaving a huge gap between his bat and pad.  He would also have liked to convert one of his starts and go on to make a substantial score.

Rating: 6.5/10

Wriddhiman Saha: Full points to Saha for his commitment, but his Test career at 37 is on the wane. He was never the first-choice keeper for India. When he was young, a flamboyant MSD captured a nation’s imagination. And now, Rishabh Pant rules the roost. Even the batting coach Vikram Rathour has vouched for it on record. Nonetheless, Saha again served Indian cricket as it found itself in a crisis. In Kanpur, he walked in with the score reading 103/6. By the time Saha departed scoring 61, India had set a target of 284 for the Kiwis. Besides, his wicket-keeping skills remain pure gold. His keeping skills were even noticed by the broadcasters and played on a loop on the final day of the second Test.

Rating: 7/10

Ravichandran Ashwin: Imagine a Ravi Ashwin warming the bench in England just a couple of months ago. And here he was, Ashwin leading the charge against New Zealand. At the age of 35, he is India’s spin spearhead. Great thinker-cum-class executioner. Be it is six wickets in Kanpur or eight in Mumbai, Ashwin got India the breakthrough every time. Especially, at Wankhede he was clinical, his 8-4 triggered NZ collapse which proved fatal. With 14 wickets in the series he walked away with the Man-of-the-Series award, his 9th of the career, putting him only behind the legendary Muttiah Muralidharan in terms of most Man-of-the-Series awards in Test cricket. Is it about time to call him India’s greatest match-winner?

Rating: 10/10

Ravindra Jadeja: There is no one as street smart as Ravindra Jadeja in this side. If he doesn’t field, he will bat for you. If he doesn’t bat, then he will bowl for you. He is multi-talented; he is an impact player. In Kanpur, his 50 was followed by a duck in the second innings. But his biggest impact was his bowling where he almost snatched the momentum in India’s favour just before Tea as Kiwis looked on course for 284-run target. All in all, it was a good series for Jaddu and could have been better had he played in Mumbai.

Rating: 5/10

Axar Patel: 2021 belonged to Axar Patel. Doesn’t it? This year saw him making his debut against England. By the time NZ came, Axar looked like a veteran. In 5 Tests so far, he already has 36 wickets; with a strike rate of 34. This means he gets a wicket in every 34 balls! Well, that precision was on display as he took a fifer against the Kiwis in Kanpur in the very first Test, and then followed it up with some good batting in Wankhede—52 and 41*. His second-inning cameo saw him taking the attack to the opposition as those runs came in just 26 balls. Besides the turn factor, he can also lead lower-order resistance for India with the bat.

Rating: 7/10

Jayant Yadav: It was good to see Jayant Yadav play a Test match for India again. Remember, his last match came in Feb 2017. It wasn’t easy for him, but he managed to pick five wickets in Mumbai. His 4/49 in the second innings hastened the process of Kiwi loss. Even head coach Rahul Dravid praised him for his superb effort on the final day. Let’s hope he gets some games in the future.

Rating: 7/10

Umesh Yadav: Let’s be very clear, Umesh Yadav is not a regular in this side. His performance doesn’t pack a punch. Even in this series he accounted for just two wickets and got picked only because the likes of Shami and Bumrah were missing. At Wankhede, Yadav was brought into the attack for five overs—enough to make an impact. Instead, he leaked runs and Kohli had to remove him. This doesn’t augur well for him, at least in the coming months.

Rating: 3/10

Mohammed Siraj: We all wished Siraj could have played in Kanpur. Nonetheless, he was in action in Mumbai and made an instant impact with a three for. His sheer pace and movement off the pitch proved fatal for a number of batters including senior pro Ross Taylor. Although he picked up just three scalps, it was enough for him to make a statement about his promising future. He will surely be picked ahead of Ishant Sharma for South Africa tour.

Rating: 8/10

Ishant Sharma: This series could be the death knell for this lanky seamer. There are already reports of him missing out on South Africa series and why not? He went wicketless in Kanpur. Didn’t build his case in Mumbai as he was ‘injured.’ If that’s not enough, have a look at last six months. Time and again we have seen Indian cricket moving on from big-hyped, big-name fast bowlers. Maybe Ishant’s time has come.