December 2, 2022

T20 format Topsy Turvy, Rohit Sharma and Co cannot rely on past laurels


India were shot in the arm in the T20 series against Australia. Beating the reigning world champions – after losing the opener – was a magnificent recovery that should give the team a confidence boost for the T20 WC. India’s first game in the tournament – against Pakistan – is four weeks away.

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Beating Australia was timely and important. After the Asian Cup flop show, the Indian players – as well as the team management – ​​were under duress. Questions were asked whether the prolonged experimentation of coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma hadn’t stopped the team from settling.

Such concern heightened when Australia won the opener in a thrilling chase that ended in the final. It was a serious setback against the backdrop of recent Asian Cup defeats also due to which India failed to reach the final.

One more match dropped from a winning position reinforced the perception that while the Indian team were highly talented, they lacked confidence and mental toughness and tended to lose their temper in difficult situations. All the discouraging signs with the World Cup just around the corner.

The following two matches, however, allayed several apprehensions. The second and third games also saw the last victories, but both Indies finished victorious, marking a shift in focus, intention and ambition. The second was a matter of 8 because of the rain. In such situations, the match becomes a kind of lottery. Still, this win was a meaningful game in the context of the series. A defeat would have meant losing the rubber. A victory, chasing to 12 points and more, showed that India had not lost the stomach for a fight.

Victory three was even better, with India excelling with ball and bat. In the third. It was another thrilling final, but who saw

Australia got off to a flying start thanks to Cameron Green, who sent the ball all over the pitch, often over the ropes. A score over 200 seemed on the cards, but the Indian bowlers fought extremely well to keep the target at 187. In this format, against strong opponents, even 5-7 runs can make a crucial difference, and that’s turned out as India picked up a win in the final over.

The notable feature of this chase was the 104-run partnership between Surya Kumar Yadav, whose incandescent kicking game lit up the floor, and a strong, mature half-century of Virat Kohli. In my opinion, this was Kohli’s best T2 shot in the past two years. He kept an end, allowing Yadav to give full expression to his talent and current form, never trying to earn brownie points for himself.

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Hardik and Surya Yadav enhanced their stature as series winners, but India’s biggest hit was Axar Patel. Bowling in the front, middle or back, Axar showed fine control and variation in pace and angle and an amazing ability to pick up wickets. He’s not a big ball spinner, but that doesn’t matter given his splendid economy and strike rates.

With Jadeja out through injury, there were fears that India would find the right balance and combination. But Axar has filled this gap wonderfully. He has yet to match Jadeja’s batting ability and is definitely not in the same class as a defender. But he is not lacking in savvy, ambition and game intelligence, which is a boon for the team.

Not everything has worked out perfectly for India in the series. At bat, more runs from Rohit and Rahul were expected. In bowling, Bhuvaneshwar had a bad streak, being carried for a lot in slog overs. By their own high standards, Bumrah and Harshal also failed.

the last two were of course coming back from injury and looked a bit ginger. But these three will clearly form the rhythm of the attack in the World Cup (with Pandya in support), and it was good to see Rohit supporting them strongly despite their lukewarm form in the series.

The big worry for India is commissioning. Several easy holds, including three in the opener itself, were dropped, and the ground court was also below par. Only Kohli and Hardik look world-class in the business, and even the latter has been guilty of gaffes. In the World Cup, such mistakes could cost India dearly.

Admittedly, the Australians were not complete. David Warner, Mitchel Starc, Mitch Marsh and Marcus Stoinis, all significant contributors to their World Cup victory last year in the United Arab Emirates, were missing due to injury or were out. Nonetheless, the players who took part in this tour were no pushovers, so India’s victory in the series cannot be jeopardized.

How the team fares against South Africa, in the three-game series starting on Wednesday, now becomes equally important.

Proteas are no child’s play in this format. In fact, neither side is, if recent T20 results across the cricketing world are any indication. Sri Lanka, remember, won the Asian Cup, putting India and Pakistan in the shadows. The ongoing series of switches between England and Pakistan and India and Australia only adds to the unpredictability factor.

The T20 format is notoriously backwards, so Rohit Sharma and Co can hardly rest on their laurels if they are to enter the World Cup with winning momentum.

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