INDIA have built a reputation as excellent players of spin thanks to their nimble footwork and supple wrists but a gamble taken by New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was all that was needed to puncture that aura in their World Twenty20 opener.
Nagpur’s VCA Stadium pitch had been rated as “poor” in December after spinners claimed 33 of the 40 wickets to fall inside three days when India beat South Africa by 124 runs in a test match between the sides.
On Tuesday (March 15), the same strip promised enough turn to convince Williamson to sacrifice speed and arm his attack with three specialist spinners for the Super 10 stage contest against an Indian team famed for their proficiency against spin bowling.
The gamble paid off, and handsomely.
Mitchell Santner, Nathan McCullum and Ish Sodhi ran through the hosts, claiming nine of the 10 wickets to fall on a track offering prodigious turn as India were dismissed for just 79 runs in pursuit of 127.
This was only the third occasion in the short history of Twenty20 Internationals that spinners have claimed nine wickets and it came against opponents who have never lost more than five to the slow bowlers.
The 47-run defeat not only dented skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his team’s title credentials but also raised questions about their ability to play spin.
“This has been a exhibition on how not to play spin by the so called best players of spin in the world,” former England captain Michael Vaughan tweeted.
Like many, Vaughan had not seen any real weakness in the current Indian side but went on to add: “Forgot to say… Only Weakness is preparing a pitch like yesterday.”
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar sensed “over confidence” in the Indian team and felt they had been beaten in their own game by a clever New Zealand side.
“If spinning tracks are the medicine that India are going to use in World Twenty20, they must be ready to tackle it themselves,” Gavaskar told NDTV referring to India’s demise in 18.1 overs.
England all-rounder Ben Stokes was more scathing in his assessment of the Nagpur track.
“The astro turf pitch with cigarette burns on a length at my old school was better than that wicket,” he tweeted.
India will be quickly looking to make amends for the shock loss when they take on fierce rivals Pakistan in their next Super 10 contest at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens on Saturday (March 19).