Former batsman VVS Laxman criticised India's fielding after an inconsistent on-field show throughout the white-ball leg of the ongoing tour of New Zealand, especially during the ODIs where drop catches, overthrows and other mishaps were regularly seen from the visitors as they suffered a disappointing 3-0 whitewash.
"India's fielding was less than impressive," Laxman wrote in his column for the Times of India after Men in Blue failed to defend a total of 296/7 at Bay Oval in the final ODI this Tuesday (February 11). "Especially when the wickets are not coming, top-class fielding can act as an additional bowler. India will feel they let themselves down in the field."
"New Zealand responded to a 5-0 defeat in the T20 internationals with a commanding 3-0 sweep of the One-Day International series, but as well as they played, they were aided in no small measure by a fumbling Indian side," he added. "Virat Kohli and the management group must be disappointed at the bowling and especially, the fielding."
This was the first occasion of India being at the receiving end of a clean slate in a series of three or more matches since 1989. However, there were also positives to take forward from the result in Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul, two fine middle-order batsmen who cemented their positions at No.4 & 5, respectively.
In Mount Maunganui alone, while Iyer scored yet another half-century, Rahul made a wonderful hundred, before they were let down by the rest of the batting line-up and India's insipid bowling and fielding.
"The batting was shored up resourcefully by Shreyas Iyer, who has ended the discussion on the No. 4 slot, and KL Rahul, who once again showcased his versatility, but the lack of penetration was exposed by New Zealand in general, and their openers in particular," Laxman wrote.
In absence of injured regular openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Aggarwal got the opportunity, but the duo, with their obvious technical flaws, failed to last long against the moving ball.
"Their early batting too left a lot to be desired," Laxman wrote. "The start of any innings, be it with bat or ball, sets the tone for what is to follow. Apart from their half-century stand in the first ODI, openers Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw haven't strung together a partnership."
"When three wickets fall in the first quarter of the innings, including that of the best batsman in the side, if not the world, it's never easy to recover and post a substantial total."
"That India managed to do so was thanks to the growing maturity and influence in the middle order of Shreyas and Rahul, both capable of playing at more than one gear, both situationally aware, and both adept at the waiting and the power game," Laxman added.
"(Manish) Pandey added a new dimension with his smartness in running, but the lack of firepower (in absence of all-rounder Hardik Pandya) once Rahul and Pandey were dismissed off successive deliveries left India maybe 25 runs short."
(Inputs from TOI)