Grass is for cows.” Indian batsmen would happily endorse the homily as they have such a phobia towards a tinge of green on a cricket pitch. The Kiwis may be flightless birds but they tend to take off in their home atmosphere. And they repaid in kind Indian cricket’s propensity to squeeze out home advantage in Test cricket by preparing those nasty “Bunsen Burners” of pitches that let the ball spin like a dervish from day one. True to form, Indian batsmen were at sea in seaming conditions that call for grit more than bravado and intelligent application of strokes more than blind belief in talent.
No wonder then that Team India, still the top-ranked Test side and runaway leader in the world Test championship, were made to bite the dust on the green pitches of New Zealand. Their collective batting performance was so far below par that they were shot out for under 200 in three innings and the only time they passed 200, they were competitive to the extent of grabbing a slender first innings lead. That is when the Kiwi quicks hit back with intense spells that exposed an ancient Indian weakness against fast bowling. As batsmen oscillated between periods of stubborn defence and flashes of wild strokes, the fast bowlers hastened their doom.
Captain Virat Kohli seemed chastened enough after the series defeat to accept they had been outplayed. After the first Test, he had been boorish in assailing the media in his belief that poor performance in one Test was just an aberration. His own poor form that saw him average under 10 runs an innings did not help the cause. Even less so his tendency to believe that he was never LBW and so wasted reviews. India is still a favourite to figure in the Test championship final in the 2021 summer at Lord’s. The only prayer would be that the pitch should not be too green and the ball should not swing and seam too much.