“What a twist”, trumpeted Fairfax NZ’s stuff.co.nz website after New Zealand’s unheralded spinners tweaked the Black Caps to a 47-run victory over the hosts in Nagpur.
“Selection masterstroke turns the cricket world on its head, as NZ spinners slay India,” it added, referring to coach Mike Hesson’s decision to opt for a three-pronged spin attack and omit seamers Trent Boult and Tim Southee.
The gambit paid off spectacularly as the slow bowlers took nine wickets on a dustbowl, including four for 11 from man-of-the match Mitchell Santner.
“India, the world number one ranked T20 side and tournament favourites, were undone at their own game in their own conditions,” the site said, pointing out New Zealand had now won their past five T20 matches against India.
The New Zealand Herald declared it the best possible start to the tournament for the Black Caps, who face Australia on Friday.
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell said the tactic was reminiscent of the recently deceased New Zealand great Martin Crowe’s decision to open with spin at the 1992 World Cup, when the Black Caps made the semi-finals.
“Martin Crowe was way ahead of himself back in 1992 when he introduced it with Dipak Patel,” Chappell told Cricinfo.
“(He) had a lot of success… after what we have seen tonight there will be more teams adapting that tactic.”
Former New Zealand paceman Simon Doull said India came unstuck by using home advantage to prepare a spin-friendly wicket, rather than trusting in the quality of their batsmen.
“It doesn’t happen very often like that, that India get spun out,” he told Radio Sport.
“I think India have a terrific side, they just need to play on good surfaces because their batting is so good. They don’t need to make pitches like this.”
West Indies legend Brian Lara said defeat meant the hosts were unlikely to prepare such a “disappointing” wicket again, adding: “This could be the early lesson India needed to go all the way.”
England all-rounder Ben Stokes joked that he had not seen such a poor quality deck since he was a schoolboy growing up in his native New Zealand.
“The astro-turf pitch with cigarette burns on a length at my old school was a better than that wicket,” he tweeted.
T20 World Cup 2016 Coverage: