Three nights after a heart-breaking loss, New Zealand experienced another defeat they will hate. Kane Williamson, their captain, said in Kanpur that they had to accept the result and move on, but it will be difficult to move on from this one. In the first T20I of the series, in Delhi, they lost primarily because of their fielding, which is a matter of pride for them. Three catches went down, and all three batsmen - Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli - went on to hurt New Zealand bad.
"We were outplayed in all the areas, fielding included, which is something we pride ourselves on and something we need to be much better at in Twenty20 cricket," Williamson said. "That made the difference as we saw today. That proved to be vital in a lot of ways. Guys went on to score big scores for their side in the Indian team, and 200 on that surface was a very big total."
The conditions underfoot were wet even in the first innings. It seemed the fielders struggled to adjust to the dew, but Williamson refused to accept that as an excuse. "They [these conditions] are tough to prepare for exactly but given the experience within our side we're certainly not using that as an excuse," he said. "Most of the time when you come here and play in the evening, there's dew as there is on a number of other grounds that guys have played at. Not going to sugarcoat it but we were below par and came up against a what is a very good Indian side that played very well in all the areas.
"It's hard to put your finger onto one thing [for catches going down]. Often, it's a flow and effect from other areas that perhaps aren't going so well. We were put under pressure with the ball, and I suppose that's the frustrating thing. But you do want to make a difference in the park when our bowlers were struggling against guys that were in good form and hitting the ball really well. That will be a focus for us. It's what we pride ourselves on. We were disappointing today in the park. Dew is part of the challenge. Guys have experienced dew many times, so, it's not an excuse. It's something that you're aware of and you need to adapt just like I suppose the batter on a surface that's going to be variable. Something we are aware of and need to be better."
Mitchell Santner, whose bowling has been impressive all tour long, was one of the fielders who missed catches in Delhi. Even in the first ODI, he had reprieved Kohli, who went on to score a hundred. The fielding has not been the usual top-class variety you associate with New Zealand. It can be difficult to make the adjustments required on a non-stop tour, but Williamson felt this was more about the mental set-up.
"The one-dayers I think we were fairly good in the field," Williamson said. "We weren't good tonight. You don't become a bad fielding unit overnight, so I suppose it's a mindset when guys are engaged every ball. And that is challenged when you are under pressure on the field as we were tonight but we need to be better than that to be able to improve what's happening on the scoreboard and iron your position, so I suppose when the opportunity comes it makes a difference."
The message for his team was clear: it is when the bowlers are under pressure that the fielders are really tested, and that they can't afford to keep failing like they did in Delhi.