Opinion: Blackcaps v India series player ratings - New heroes emerge, old heads struggle

OPINION: Barring a series-defining hour of madness on day two at Mumbai, the Blackcaps can hold their heads high over their team performance in the 1-0 test series loss to India.

A defiant draw at Kanpur ensured New Zealand took four valuable World Test Championship points off their hosts, a feat matched by few teams in cricket at present.

Now heading home for some well-deserved time off, here's how the team rated in India.

Tom Latham 7.5

163 runs at 40.75 average, high score 95

He didn't make the headlines, but Latham was New Zealand's saviour in Kanpur, with a half-century in both innings.

As New Zealand's best player of spin, Latham was always going to be key in the Blackcaps' fortunes, with his second test failings foreshadowing what was to come in each innings in Mumbai.

Tom Latham sweeps.
Tom Latham sweeps. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Asked to captain in the second test after Kane Williamson's elbow flared up, Latham also quietly showed his wares as skipper. 

All up, a good series for one of cricket's most underrated players at the moment.

Will Young 7

115 runs at 28.75 average, high score 89

Impressive in Kanpur's first innings, before copping a shocker in the second, Young returns to New Zealand with reputation enhanced, after what's been a quietly impressive year.

Capable of batting anywhere in the top six, Young was elevated to open in place of Devon Conway and was excellent against India's spinners, using his feet well, and blending attack and defence against the turning ball.

Will Young reaches his half-century.
Will Young reaches his half-century. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

After waiting so long for his test debut last year, Young clearly has the goods to be a stable figure in this Blackcaps side, the only question will be when that chance comes next.

Kane Williamson 4.5

42 runs at 21 average, high score 24

Until he got out in each innings at Kanpur, Williamson looked completely in control against India's bowlers.

But two scores of less than 30 don't make for good reading for a player of Williamson's quality. Admittedly, the cloud of his elbow injury could go some way to explaining his performance.

Kane Williamson hits over the top.
Kane Williamson hits over the top. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

However, the series also exposed Williamson's biggest weakness - the gulf in his captaincy to spin bowlers in test cricket. Williamson's use of his seamers is among the best in the world, but on the subcontinent, his use of slower bowlers needs to improve.

Daryl Mitchell 7

68 runs at 34 average, high score 60

Daryl Mitchell's test career has so far been hindered by the Blackcaps using him incorrectly. As a batter who bowls a bit, Mitchell has predominantly been used as cover for Colin de Grandhomme, asked to perform a role that doesn't suit his game.

So it was refreshing to see him play his natural game, even if it was perhaps too high up the order at No.3.

Daryl Mitchell.
Daryl Mitchell. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Only Mayank Agarwal (150 & 62) made a higher score than Mitchell's 60, with 40 coming off boundaries, as he attacked the spinners.

Falling late on day three, Mitchell's wicket was the final nail in the coffin of New Zealand's improbable hopes of saving the second test, but the innings did highlight the need for Mitchell to play more test cricket, utilised the right way.

Ross Taylor 1

20 runs at 5 average, high score 11

Worrying. That's the only way to sum up New Zealand's all-time leading test runscorer's displays.

Taylor's last cricket of any kind before this series was the World Test Championship final in June - and it showed. The 37-year-old made it to double figures once in four innings and that was a score of 11 first up at Kanpur.

Ross Taylor drives.
Ross Taylor drives. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Most shocking was his second innings at Mumbai, out slog-sweeping like it was 2009 again, clearly struggling against spin on a turning pitch.

Make no mistake, Taylor's earned the right to decide when he bows out of international cricket, but with Young and Conway putting their hands up in the last 12 months, Taylor may be pushed before he jumps.

Henry Nicholls 3.5

54 runs at 13.50 average, high score 44

Another worry for the Blackcaps middle order is Nicholls' record against spin. While undoubtedly a fantastic player of quicks, Nicholls' hesitancy against spin - particularly off-spin - is a serious work-on for the left-hander.

In a losing cause, Nicholls was the last man to fall at Mumbai, as he sought quick runs to reach his half-century, with Ajaz Patel at the crease with him.

Henry Nicholls is bowled by Ravichandran Ashwin.
Henry Nicholls is bowled by Ravichandran Ashwin. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

His 44 in the second innings at Mumbai made up more than 80 percent of Nicholls' total runs for the series, only behind Mitchell in highest scores for the match.

But that one innings aside, pickings were slim for Henry Nicholls.

Tom Blundell 5

23 runs at 5.75 average, high score 13, eight catches, one stumping

In his first series as the Blackcaps' full-time wicketkeeper after BJ Watling's retirement, Blundell gave a good account of himself behind the stumps.

Standing up to the spinners is difficult for keepers and even more so for New Zealanders raised on a diet of fast bowlers. Even so, Blundell took eight catches in two tests, as well as pulling off a sheepish stumping that he perhaps didn't think was out. 

Barring injury, Blundell deserves to retain the test gloves for New Zealand's home summer. 

Tom Blundell appeals.
Tom Blundell appeals. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

With the bat, a total of 23 runs doesn't make for good reading, but Blundell's assurance against India's spinners was pleasing to see, coming in down the order. He batted for 94 balls in the first innings at Kanpur and 38 in the second, before he was twice undone by the pitch.

With his career batting average now hovering around 30, Blundell needs a score in his next outing, but the 31-year-old is more than good enough to do it.

Rachin Ravindra 8.5

53 runs at 17.66 average, high score 18 not out, three wickets at 40.33 average, best figures 3/56

Without question, the find of the tour for New Zealand.

The numbers might not support Ravindra's status as an up-and-comer, but the 22-year-old showed he has the character to be a very important player in test cricket for the Blackcaps.

A 91-ball 18 not out on test debut saved the game for New Zealand, as he defied India in awful batting conditions and showed composure well beyond his years. What's more, he did it from No.7 in the order, after making his name as an opener for Wellington.

Rachin Ravindra defends.
Rachin Ravindra defends. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

At Mumbai, Ravindra showed his promise with the ball, taking three wickets - including Indian captain Virat Kohli - to give a taste of his future as a batting all-rounder.

To cap it all off, Ravindra took the final catch - a skyer from Mohammed Siraj - to give Ajaz Patel his 10-wicket haul, holding onto a ball that might as well have gone into orbit.

As a player who can bat in the top six, bowl wicket-taking quality spin and hold on to high pressure catches, Rachin Ravindra is a player any team in the world dreams of.

Now it's up to him to cash in on his potential.

Kyle Jamieson 7.5

45 runs at 11.25 average, high score 23, six wickets at 30.33 average, best figures 3/30

If there was one 'criticism' of Jamieson's stellar start to test cricket, it's that all of his success came in favourable conditions, but on the first morning at Kanpur, Jamieson showed his detractors what he's worth.

A three-wicket haul on the opening day and another three in the second innings, saw Jamieson reach 50 test wickets in just his ninth test, faster than the previous quickest - Shane Bond, who himself was no slouch.

Kyle Jamieson is congratulated.
Kyle Jamieson is congratulated. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

He may have gone wicketless in Mumbai, but on a surface that saw 33 of 37 batters dismissed by spin, that's hardly on Jamieson.

Another reminder of his potential as an all-rounder came to the fore, with Jamieson looking like he has what it takes to play as a batter.

For now, lets just hope for more of the same from NZ's standout seamer.

Tim Southee 7.5

Eight wickets at 27.25 average, best figures 5/69

A masterful display of swing bowling in Kanpur highlighted Southee's importance as an all-conditions bowler for the Blackcaps.

Long spells in the heat demanded a lot from Southee, but the leader of the NZ attack stepped up in unfavourable conditions, without partner-in-crime Trent Boult.

Tim Southee celebrates.
Tim Southee celebrates. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Like Jamieson, he went wicketless at Mumbai on a spinner's paradise, but Southee's eight wickets at Kanpur were still more than India's seam attack took in the entire series (five).

The only slight against Southee comes with his batting. Nine runs in two innings at Kanpur and a pair at Mumbai that included being bowled off his pads for a second-ball duck just isn't good enough for a player with five test half-centuries.

Will Somerville 2

43 runs at 10.75 average, high score 36, no wickets

Not a good series for the player affectionately known as 'Dad'.

Going wicketless across two tests for a spinner in the subcontinent is rare, as India took a liking to the 37-year-old's off-spin.

Somerville started well on the opening day of the series at Kanpur, but struggled with the ball after that. He'd want a better send-off, but the Mumbai mauling could be the last time we see Somerville as a Blackcap.

Will Somerville.
Will Somerville. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Bowling aside, Somerville can take a large chunk of credit for helping save the first test, scoring 36 from 110 balls in the second innings as night watchman.

Somerville's defence against India's spinners on that last day went a long way towards that draw and history will look back kindly on his knock.

Ajaz Patel 10 (no pun intended)

17 wickets at 22.05 average, best figures 10/119

Jim Laker, Anil Kumble... Ajaz Patel. 

Only thrice has a player taken all 10 wickets in a test innings, with Patel the first to do it away from home.

Overseas players very rarely get standing ovations in India, but there wasn't a single person in the Wankhede Stadium that didn't appreciate the 33-year-old's performance.

The 10-wicket performance is arguably among the top displays ever by a New Zealand cricketer and made all the more special for the fact it came in Patel's hometown of Mumbai.

Ajaz Patel celebrates.
Ajaz Patel celebrates. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Another four wickets in the second innings gave him the best match figures for any bowler in a test against India (14/225), even if it fell one short of equalling Sir Richard Hadlee's best showing by a New Zealander (15/123).

With that Mumbai performance, it's also easy to forget Patel's performance in saving the game at Kanpur, combining in a 52-ball partnership with Ravindra that defied logic, as well as their opponents.

Not bad for a guy who's not even guaranteed a place in the New Zealand XI for the first test of the summer on New Year's Day.

Alex Powell is a Newshub online sports producer