Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal did not trouble the scorers much on Friday (Courtesy by BCCI)

Virat Kohli's Team India rattled on Valentine's Day as New Zealand challenge looms

Despite Cheteshwar Pujara and Hanuma Vihari adding 194 runs together, India were bundled out for 263 with 8 of their batsmen not going past single-digit scores on Day 1 of their practice match against New Zealand XI in Hamilton.


What is the purpose of a practice match on a foreign tour? The foremost reason why visiting teams play such games before the start of a Test series is to acclimatise themselves with the foreign conditions so as to be in prime shape when the proper matches begin. Secondly, it also gives teams a chance to figure out their best playing XI from the squad which will start the proper series. Because India have been playing white-ball cricket in New Zealand for most of the past month, they should be pretty well acclimatized with the conditions by now. However, it is the 2nd criteria which should continue to give captain Virat Kohli headaches after the team was bundled for 263 vs New Zealand XI in Hamilton on Friday.

While Hanuma Vihari and Cheteshwar Pujara shone among the rubble that Indian batting resembled on Friday, 8 others failed to register double-digit scores. The dismal showing of the Indians at Seddon Park means India and Kohli will have a lot of thinking to do over the next few days before the 1st Test vs New Zealand starts on February 21.

Opening conundrum

Choosing to bat first after winning the toss on a bouncy surface in Hamilton was a brave call. But all that courage amounted to nothing when opener Prithvi Shaw was bounced out by fast bowler Scott Kuggeleijn in the very fisrt over for a duck. His partner Mayank Agarwal, who had scores of 32, 3 and 1 in the preceding ODI series, failed to cross 1 again edging one behind to the wicketkeeper.

No.4 Shubman Gill, who is also in contention for the opening spot, found the bounce too steep and departed the very next ball after Mayank got out. In a space of 38 balls, all 3 of India's choicest openers were back in the hut leaving Kohli nowhere close to finding his ideal opening combination.

Pant vs Saha

During India's home season last year, Virat Kohli and the Indian team management left no stone unturned in asserting that Wriddhiman Saha is their No.1 choice wicketkeeper in Tests. However in a practice match you still try to give a go to all the players. And India did so with Rishabh Pant who arrived at the crease at the fall of Pujara's wicket.

Off the 3rd ball he played, Pant made his intentions clear by hitting Jake Gibson to the boundary. After playing out 7 more balls, Pant just couldn't resist his instincts as he went for an aerial shot off the leg-spin of Ish Sodhi. The result - Pant was caught out by Kuggeleijn with Saha stationed at the other end.

Mind you, this was the 1st innings played by Pant after warming the bench throughout the 5 T20Is and 3 ODIs in New Zealand. All this while there has been a lot of buzz around Pant not being able to play according to the situation and on Friday Pant showed that a month of being out of the side has not done him any good whatsoever. His 7 off 10 balls could still end up as his only outing by the culmination of this New Zealand tour.

On the other hand, Saha didn't do too good either falling for a duck in the next over but you'd think that the onus was on Pant to make the wicketkeeping spot his own. The fact that he blew it might make the choice between him and Saha much easier for Kohli.

Lower-order muddle

India's innings on Friday could be divided into 3 different phases: first, top-order collapse ending at 38 for 4; second, 195-run stand between Vihari and Pujara; third, late batting collapse of 5 wickets for 30 runs (excluding Vihari's retired out). While we have already discussed the top-order collapse, Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri wouldn't be too happy by the late flurry of wickets.

Saha, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja combined to produce just 8 runs which was equal to the contribution made by Shaw, Agarwal, Gill and Pant together. There could be times in the upcoming series when India find themselves in situations where the lower-order needs to stick around. Friday's performance wouldn't be very encouraging when Kohli visualises these situations.

How much did Kohli score himself? Well, he didn't bat!

Also, Happy Valentine's Day!