India have lost four successive one-day internationals and their world No 1 ranking, but captain MS Dhoni insists they're not far off.
The world champions have done little to avert their reputation as poor tourists south of the subcontinent, with two heavy ODI defeats in South Africa before Christmas then back-to-back losses to a resurgent New Zealand in closer contests. Wednesday's 15-run Duckworth-Lewis defeat in Hamilton saw Australia overtake them on top of the world.
India haven't been poor, but with the bat are too reliant on Dhoni and Virat Kohli. With the ball they lack a cutting edge from their pacemen and are struggling to make an impact via their two-spin attack of Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
"There have been a few things that have not really gone our way," Dhoni said.
You could argue they were hard done by in the rain-interrupted Hamilton match, actually scoring more runs than the hosts in making 277-9 off 41.3 overs, 15 short of the adjusted par total. On this occasion, though, choosing to bowl first with rain threatening wasn't the right call.
Kohli, surely the world's best one-day batsman, has shone like a beacon in an underperforming top order. Openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan plundered Australia at home in October but struggled badly in South Africa and New Zealand. Wednesday's 22 was their best opening stand in four ODIs. They crawled to that score off 7.3 overs in their Hamilton chase before Dhawan charged Tim Southee and was yorked.
"What some of the batters are going through is a phase where first when you come in and you just play your natural game and then all of a sudden you have a reputation to carry on and that puts a bit of pressure on them," Dhoni said.
"With more and more games, they will realise what their particular game is, they will back themselves."
It is certainly a more vulnerable looking Indian batting lineup without the likes of familiar faces Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar at the top. No 4 Ajinkya Rahane also looks unconvincing.
With the ball, experienced Ishant Sharma is down on pace and struggling for accuracy, going at eight an over with just two wickets for his toil.
Mohammed Shami is their most likely wicket-taker and Bhuvneshwar Kumar is accurate, but they lack punch and New Zealand's batsmen have got set. Kane Williamson, in particular, showed how to milk India's spin duo which hasn't been able to keep the brakes on.
Dhoni was happy with India's death bowling but felt they offered too many boundary balls at the start and end of each over. He insisted they remained a happy team and were intent on getting back in the five-match series in Auckland tomorrow.
"As far as the morale is concerned, it's a fantastic, lively dressing room. And what we always emphasise is that cricket is not something that should have a lot of effect on the dressing room."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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