One of the reasons why India were unable to press home the advantage in South Africa was an inflexibility in tactics. It is understandable that a tactic has to be given some time to succeed, but when it is clear that it is not working, then you have to go to plan B or even plan C if needed.
That did not quite happen at Durban where the tactic of not taking the second new ball was not changed till the umpires were forced to intervene and ask that the ball be changed, at which point the Indians opted for the new ball. By that time, the seam bowlers who had been bowling close to two hours in the Durban heat were tired, and when the new ball was taken they did not have the zip to make it work.
Here in New Zealand, the tactic of going in with five batsmen and five bowlers has not worked and that needs to be looked at. When India won the World Cup, they went in with six batsmen and four bowlers. The big plus was that most of those batsmen could turn their arms over more than usefully, so the fifth bowler's quota could be shared between them. This is not the case with the batsmen in this team, and apart from Raina and Kohli, the top four are not reliable as far as bowling is concerned.
India will have to look at the options available to them if they are to salvage the series and regain the number one ranking. The two spinner strategy is not working, so they need to bring in somebody who can bowl and be a good tonker of the ball.
They will also have to take a call on Ishant Sharma, who unfortunately is either unwilling to learn or is incapable of it, for newcomers like Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are bowling good yorkers and stemming the flow of runs, while Ishant continues to bowl the short of length deliveries and see the ball disappear into the stands. Whether the team management take the calls will be seen only at Auckland.
The tactic of fielding first also needs to be looked at, since it would be far easier on the batsmen to bat without the pressure of maintaining an asking rate. This will allow somebody like a Shikhar Dhawan to play himself in. Rohit Sharma has struggled a bit in South Africa as well as here in New Zealand, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to push the in-form Rahane, who opens the batting in T20 cricket, to open the batting and push Sharma down the order.
The two matches have shown that there is not much distance between the sides, and if India can take care of the leaks, then they could well turn it around and win the series.
Professional Management Group