VVS Laxman feels the rise of Shreyas Iyer has ended India’s No. 4 conundrum for good. Iyer was one of the positives for India in the limited-overs leg, scoring a maiden international hundred and two half-centuries in the three ODIs, to go with a half-century and scores of 44 and 33* in T20Is, and the former India batsman believes he and KL Rahul – with a century and an unbeaten 88 – have emerged as India’s middle order strengths despite a 0-3 ODI whitewash.

“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 his column for Times of India.

Laxman expressed disappointment at India’s newly-formed opening pair of Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal. Despite Shaw getting starts on a couple of occasions, he and Agarwal formed one fifty-plus stand in three innings, while Laxman felt their batting left a lot to be desired. And still if India managed to put up strong totals on the board was majorly due to contributions from the middle order.

“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,” Laxman, who played 134 Tests and 86 ODIs for India, explained.

“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. Pandey added a new dimension with his smartness in running, but the lack of firepower once Rahul and Pandey were dismissed off successive deliveries left India maybe 25 runs short.”

Laxman felt India could have been better with their fielding, which led to their downfall in ODIs. Ross Taylor was put down on 12 and he went on to score 109* in New Zealand’s four-wicket-win, along with few more chances were slipped by India, which resulted in their first ODI whitewash in a three-match series since 1989. That said, he had good words for legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal, who was playing his first ODI since August 2019 and took six wickets from the last two matches.

“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. Virat Kohli and the management group must be disappointed at the bowling and especially, the fielding,” he said.