India v/s New Zealand: Report Card

It was a new-look Indian ODI outfit that took on New Zealand in five matches at home – and they have only three more till the next Champions Trophy. R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, the lead spinners, were rested. As a result, the middle order looked different too, with the absence of Suresh Raina (to illness) and Yuvraj Singh. There was no Shikhar Dhawan at the top, either. 
India won the series 3-2 against a spirited Kiwi outfit – who go back without winning the test or ODI series. India destroyed them in the decider at Visakhapatnam, thereby laying down the marker for an embattled England team visiting in a week for a long tour through the winter. 
 
In the meantime, let’s take a look at the performances of the Indian players in the series:
 
Ajinkya Rahane (5/10)
Rahane had the opportunity to finally seal his place at the top in the absence of an injured Dhawan. But once again, he flattered to deceive in limited overs international cricket – finishing with an average of 28 and just one fifty to his name. The openers, in general, didn’t have much success this time around, but it’s Rahane who could make way first ahead of next year’s tournaments. He remains India’s best test batsman.
 
Rohit Sharma (4/10)
A disappointing series for one of India’s best ODI batsmen in recent times. He failed in four out of five games. An average of 25 will be disappointing, but his 70 in the last match on a sluggish pitch won India a game in which others were struggling to get a move-on. He injured his calf muscle again, raising questions about his fitness, but his rate at faster than a run a ball may have just about saved him from yet another bout of "talented Sharma deserves nothing” criticism. 
 
Virat Kohli (9/10)
A mammoth 358 runs later, with an average of 119, Kohli once again proved why he is easily the best batsman in limited overs cricket. He chased with gusto, as if it was just another day in the office, and even his failures were on the lines of “only” 45, in the fourth ODI, where India collapsed after he nicked behind. The batting line-up was beginning to rest on his chiseled shoulders again, before a few others stepped up in the last game. But even when he struggled, he scored 65 at Vizag, finishing the series as the top scorer again. He is virtually unstoppable in this format, and is fast breaking a lot of Sachin-special records.
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MS Dhoni (6/10)
Captain Cool, for once, wasn’t at the receiving end of yet another series defeat. He promoted himself to no. 4 in order to hide his diminishing finishing abilities, and was relatively more successful, with a fifty and an average of close to 40 for the series – his first fifty in more than a year. He was terrific behind the stumps as usual, but he hasn’t done enough to merit his place as captain in this format ahead of the marauding Kohli – who was fresh from a 3-0 test whitewash and an all-time high. 
 
Kedar Jadhav (6.5/10)
The ultimate bits-and-pieces middle-order player did very well to replace Suresh Raina, chipping in usefully with his wicket-taking spells, and some fast cameos in the middle order. He didn’t quite turn it on under pressure, and isn’t the kind of single-handed match winner that Hardik Pandya can become, but Jadhav has done enough to be considered ahead.
 
Hardik Pandya (6/10)
Pandya fired ahead in his first two matches, falling a bit away after that. His first match was a man-of-the-match all-round performance, and he almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a quickfire 36 with the lower order in Delhi, but did little else except demonstrate some genuine pace with the ball early on. He could be Dhoni’s mythical-seeming all-rounder, only if he manages to forget what a disastrous IPL season he had, and comes back stronger in the blue shirt.
 
Manish Pandey (4/10)
76 runs in 5 matches isn’t exactly what he wanted out of a series that was supposed to establish him as India’s go-to no. 5, behind Dhoni. He may just be suffering because of the captain’s promotion to the top, because he bats well in the top order, and seems a bit lost for time in the middle order. He isn’t quite the finisher he proved to be down under earlier this year, but needs more chances to seal his place – and perhaps a stable batting position at no. 4. 
 
Axar Patel (7/10)
The lanky flat-spinning bowler contributed with both bat and ball, and will be satisfied with his all-round performance in the absence of Jadeja. He didn’t quite win any match on his own, but his runs down the order were very useful, as was his economy rate of 4.5 (only 4 wickets). 
 
Amit Mishra (10/10)
15 wickets in 5 matches, with some classic leg-spin bowling – plenty of loop, flight and turn – that would have made Warne proud. The 34-year-old has played only 35 ODIs in the 13 years since his debut, but has been put in a situation where he must perform in every single opportunity he gets. This time, he did, and how! His 5-for at Vizag was a pleasure to watch, and his first man-of-the-series award was a reward for all those years of waiting on the sidelines. Will be a tough call going ahead, for he is easily India’s best limited-overs spinner right now.
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Umesh Yadav (7/10)
The best pace bowler of the series, Yadav provided good pace and wickets at the top, setting the platform for the spinners to come and run through the order. His 8 wickets were mostly top-order ones, which meant that he will be picked ahead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar whenever he is fit – and consistent enough.
 
Jasprit Bumrah (7/10)
An economy rate of 4 for his 6 wickets prove that Bumrah is no more a wild slinger, and has more control over his variety. He continues to bowl Yorkers at will and is difficult to score of, which hands some easy wickets to his partnering bowlers. He is maturing with every series.

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