The last India had a quality left-arm pacer was Zaheer Khan and ever since he made an exit from the team, India have had the luxury of the same only in the form of Jaydev Unadkat or a Barinder Sran. Meaning, the Indian batsmen have not faced quality left-arm pace in the nets and that in turn has shown its effect in the international matches. New Zealand have toured India for the second time in two years. In 2016, although they were drubbed in the Test series, they hit back hard in the limited-overs and closely lost the decider match. The Black Caps are back again in the same time of the year as last year. This time with a bang! An allround performance from the visitors gave a reality check to the Indian team as they took away the first ODI in Mumbai on Sunday.

Ever since Virat Kohli took over India’s full-time captaincy, India never lost an ODI whenever the skipper recorded a century. New Zealand even changed that and hence their victory became even more significant.

This will repeat more often if the opponents come up with quality left-arm pacers against India like the New Zealanders did in the form of Trent Boult. Even before the series had started, Indian Vice-Captain Rohit Sharma had admitted that Indian batsmen might struggle against Boult.

“The last time India had a left-arm seamer was a long time back. I think Zaheer Khan was the last one who played for India in the ODI format. For us as batters, I think it will be a challenge to face a left-arm seamer. Trent Boult being one of their premium left-arm bowlers, it gives us a challenge. It will be a huge challenge for all batters to come good against,” Rohit said.

Wankhede Stadium, Rohit’s home ground, witnessed one of the best spells from Boult, who with his absolute accuracy, lines and lengths blended with capitalising on the weaknesses of the Indian openers, derailed the top-order. In his first four overs, Boult had two wickets (Rohit and Shikhar), a maiden and had given away only six runs.

New Zealand Captain Kane Williamson handed the bowl to their most experienced fast bowler Tim Southee to open the bowling for them. The Indian openers managed to extract eight runs of the opening over that was inclusive of a boundary from Shikhar Dhawan. The troubles began right from the second over when Boult began bowling from the other end. Dhawan faced his first ball and almost got himself out. It was full delivery, channelled on the fourth stump, Dhawan, who has a habit of poking anything and everything, got a thick edge but fortunately for India, he fell short of the second slip.

He survived another fuller delivery from Boult, which was again around off before he finally was sent back. For some reason, most of the quality batsmen from Delhi, like Dhawan and Gambhir, will never leave an outside off delivery. Even several numbers of caught behind dismissals have not been enough to teach them a lesson in this case. The delivery from Boult was not wide enough to cut but Dhawan, who was already under pressure against the left-arm pacer, thought, he needed to relieve the pressure by playing it. He only poked it that flew into the safe hands of Tom Latham behind the wickets.

Dhawan, since his debut in 2010, has been dismissed by a left-arm pacer for 14 times now and out of which, five times were caught behind.

The other opener, Rohit, meanwhile managed to go after Southee, who had fewer variations when compared to Boult on Sunday. Hence, Southee was hit for 73 runs in 10 overs and the three wickets that he picked towards the end of India innings were not as significant as Boult’s.

Rohit, in the fifth over, smashed two sixes and ended the over with a single to take strike in Boult’s over. Those shots were not very impressive as he just got away with them. He made four mistakes in seven balls and the last one proved to be hard at him as he was dismissed for a terrible choice of stroke off Boult’s delivery. This was not for the first time, Rohit was dismissed by a left-arm pacer. When Rohit spoke about how the Indian batsmen would struggle against the left-arm fast bowler Boult before the match, that actually implied to him, more than anyone else in the team.

Rohit, when made his debut in 2007, showed weaknesses against left-armers, be it pace or spin, and now after a decade, that problem still continues to haunt him. This certainly does not fare well on the part of a vice-captain of the national side. Rohit played his maiden ODI in 2007, from that till now, he has been dismissed by left-armers 26 times, out of which 21 times have been pacers. In the 2016 home series against New Zealand, Boult dismissed Rohit three times in the five ODIs the two sides had played. Out of the 21 times, more than 15 times Rohit has been caught for his wrong choice of shot.

Boult had one thing very clear; these Indian batsmen would go after any bowl he threw at them. He once again tried at outside off to former Indian captain MS Dhoni, who like Dhawan and Rohit went after it when in reality should have been left. Boult made a variation in pace, slowed it down and a lack of pace did not help Dhoni at all, who was caught by Guptill.

When Boult, in a similar trick, trapped Hardik Pandya, it was not sure if the wicket belonged to Boult more or New Zealand Captain Kane Williamson who took a diving catch at mid-off region.

This was not for the first time when a left-arm pacer exposed the flaws in the batting line-up. Last month, Jason Behrendorff who made his international debut on the India tour, ripped apart the hosts in the second ODI with figures of 4 for 21 in 4 overs. Apart from Dhoni Rohit, Dhawan and Pandya were Behrendorff’s victims. A couple of years back, when India were thrashed by Bangladesh at home in the three-ODI series, it was Mustafizur Rehman who troubled the Indian batsmen. He was the leading wicket-taker with 13 wickets, which included Rohit’s wicket in all the three matches.


Mohammad Amir has been another left-arm pacer who has troubled the Indian batsmen, again, Rohit the most. Openers play a major role to drive the team ahead in limited-overs. Once they lay a strong foundation by giving a flying start, the others can play more freely with less pressure. It is high time that Indian team seek solutions to deal with left-armers, especially fast bowlers before it gets too late.

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