India suffered a humiliating 2-0 loss to New Zealand, their first whitewash in nine years, and made the ICC Test Championship points table wide open. In a series where Shubman Gill didn’t get an opportunity to bat, he actually emerged as one of the winners, putting the series to perspective.
As talented as Prithvi Shaw, if not more, Shubman Gill has hardly taken a step wrong in the last two years, dominating every attack during India A tours and in the domestic cricket in India. An average of over 74 after playing 21 first-class matches are good enough for anyone to have been picked but Shaw got the first pick in the series considering the mid-career plight after scoring heavy in the West Indies series in 2018. However, by squandering it all together, more importantly by throwing his wickets, Shaw has not only created havoc for himself but also opened the doors for Shubman Gill for the future series. Whether he gets a chance in the Australia series is of a different matter but by not being given a chance, he has actually kept his chances more alive than it would have probably been otherwise.
ICC Test Championship
After India secured three series wins straight up to become run-away leaders on the Championship table, it created a wreck of sorts with everyone else playing catch up. Australia did well to hang in there, with wins over Pakistan and New Zealand putting them next to India. This was threatening and seemed like the Championship would lose its relevance if two teams a year before the eventual final in Lord’s leave the chasing pack behind but India’s loss to New Zealand 2-0 put things place back at its position. New Zealand moved to the third place, with 120 points from the series, and even though India are the toppers now, both Australia and New Zealand, having a chance to overturn the result come the Summer Down Under.
Toss has always been an important factor in Test cricket and it is a fact worth noting that under Virat Kohli, India have not lost a single Test when they won the toss. And that is a massive 21 Tests. Even taking the home factor into account, India at home haven’t lost a single Test after winning the toss since the Mumbai Test of 2012 and New Zealand last lost a Test in the home territory after winning the toss was in 2009. This is a fair reflection of how the coin factor determines the fortune of the host team - something that was a winner this time as well. Until the teams come out and really put up a performance worth the value, this seems to continue even longer.
Coming into the series, India didn’t drop a single point in the ICC Test Championship and looked set to continue the hegemony for the New Zealand series as well. New Zealand were depleted after losing to Australia and it seemed like India were destined to continue their dominance. But alas, it was all blown to smithereens and how! The Virat Kohli-led team, who ended their SENA cycle with one series win, in fact, lost nine Tests while winning four. Sure enough, many Tests were close and the results could have gone India’s way but history, the cruel history, hardly remembers the intangibles and India will be haunted by theirs for a long long time.
Ravichandran Ashwin is definitely one of the world’s all-time best spinners and deserves all the accolades he has got so far in his career. But does any of that guarantee a long run for the man, who for all his might, hasn’t been able to do what has been expected of him. In Wellington, when he was picked ahead of Ravindra Jadeja, it created a lot of eyeballs but everyone hoped it would pay off. Except, it didn’t. The Tamil Nadu giant conceded as many as 99 runs for three wickets and even though he was bowling against the wind, his figures had no backers. His degraded batting also has a role to play in Ravindra Jajdeja getting a nod for the Hagley Oval Test and as of now, it seems, will continue.
It seems like an odd one, doesn't it? But that is actually in reality and I will explain why. After Todd Astle took a step back from red-ball cricket, William Somerville suffered an injury and Mitchell Santner regularly under-performed, the Kiwi spin resources hit an all-time low. They had Ajaz Patel as back-up sure, but Patel was as clueless as Indian batsmen in this series, which led to New Zealand picking an all-pace attack for the Christchurch Test. In hindsight, it turned out to be a masterstroke, as New Zealand found a template to bank on for the home Tests, with green top might become the new order. World, beware.