It wasn't the kind of result anyone had expected. India were rampant in their first seven matches of the ICC World Test Championship, winning all the games in dominant fashion - four by an innings margin and rest three were by 200-plus runs. Hence, albeit a trip overseas, India were still given the edge against New Zealand, who were just whitewashed by Australia. And more so, India, for the first time in their Test history, had a pace battery to flaunt awe so proudly and were the pivotal reasons behind India's historic 2-1 series win Down Under in 2018/19.
As per the usual pattern of India in the overseas contest, Virat Kohli's side lost the opener in Wellington. But there was considerable hope that the visitors would return. And there were moments in the second game when even on a creamy green top at the Hagley Oval, three batters had scored their half-centuries, there was an impressive middle-order partnership to hand India a hope of a near 300 total, or when the pacers pulled off a miraculous comeback on day 2 despite the absence of Ishant Sharma helping the visiting team managed a seven-run lead. Even on the day 3 in the second innings, there was a certain hope of posting a lead around 200.
But each time India rose to the occasion of stamping their authority, New Zealand sneaked back in. Either in the form of a Kyle Jamieson-inspired tail-end lineup or in the form of a four-pace attack where each of whom was designated with a plan for a set batsman. India, unable to withstand the pressure, despite the presence of three experienced batters, failed to find that thin line between intent and aggression, while the bowlers failed to find swing and bounce like their New Zealand counterparts.
India eventually lost the second Test by seven wickets and incurred their first defeat in World Test Championship and their first whitewash in Tests since 4-0 defeat in Australia in 2011/12.
India were already declared 'world beaters' following their rampaging starts in the Test Championship. It was hence another series for Kohli to grab and join the upper echelons of successful Test leaders. Even a draw would have served him good. But India lost and the defeat only outlined that there are no 'world beaters' in Tests right now, only few good home teams.
Like India, New Zealand too have made most of their home conditions in winning matches. They have been unbeaten at home since March 2017. And during the same time, they won only one Test series away from home - 2-1 against Pakistan in UAE - and held Sri Lanka 1-1 in their own backyard, which is no easy task in Tests. However, they were whitewashed in Australia hence making it difficult to adjudge the Black Caps are the present world-beaters.
Kohli's India had the best opportunity to be what head coach Ravi Shastri had boastfully claimed his side to be "India's best travelling team in 15 years". India had three overseas tours in 2018/19 season. They lost in South Africa and England convincingly but won comprehensively in Australia, although critics had cited the absence of Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitchell Starc being the reason behind India's win.
Coming to Shastri's claim, Kohli's side were never the "best Indian travellers". In fact, in the last decade, India won 74 per cent of their matches at home winning 37 off 50 - their best in any decade and second-best overall after Australia's 2000s. But their overseas record during the same period had deteriorated compared to India's performance in 2000s - from 1 to 0.76 as per the W/L ratio. They played 36 series between 2010 and 2019, and won only seven contests - two were against Sri Lanka and three against West Indies. Of the remaining 11, three ended in a draw and eight in defeats. And of the total 34 matches played in SENA nations, India won only six matches. Two series ended in a whitewashed - against England and Australia - both in 2011.
Moreover, India incurred their worst overseas series in New Zealand since 0-2 loss in 2002/03, and displayed their third-worst Test series with the bat after they recorded 18.05 as their average runs per wicket in the New Zealand series.
Mayank Agarwal was the leading run-scorer for India with 102 runs despite failures to put up big scores in both the matches. Meanwhile, the likes of Pujara, Kohli and Rahane failed poorly to add any runs to the board. While Pujara and Kohli were undone by the swing ball, Rahane was troubled by a barrage of short balls from Neil Wagner and Jamieson. Among the bowling department, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, despite their impressive spell in the first innings at Hagley Oval, failed to find the right lengths in Wellington. Only Ishant Sharma had provided some hope with his fi-fer in the opener, but missed the second due to an injury.
It's time for retrospection for India. For the batters whose follies have been called out and for the bowling department that showed lack of depth in New Zealand.