After a death-over onslaught from Ravindra Jadeja, a Bumrah-less India, led by ‘concussion sub’ Yuzi Chahal, produced an otherworldly bowling display to choke Australia and take a 1-0 lead in the T20Is. The batsmen did their part for the Blues, but the victory was all about the nifty bowlers.
Postponement of World T20 a blessing in disguise for India
So confused were team India by their starting XI that there were different sets of players mentioned in the official teamsheet and the one the BCCI posted on Twitter. In a way, it was almost fitting of the management’s mindset: they really had no idea as to who to pick. Understandably these are games which give the management the opportunity to try out options, but the XI India fielded today was more of ‘we’re trying to find our best side’ and less of ‘we’re giving the guys in the bench a go’. Barring the sure-shots Kohli, Rahul, Bumrah, Shami, Pandya and Rohit, the management seem to have little idea as to what the other pieces are. Shreyas Iyer, until March, was a core member, but today he was overlooked for Pandey and Samson; Chahal has been the No.1 for a good part of 2 years, but he, too, was left out on the pretext of bad ODI performances; Dhawan is still not assured of a spot despite his reputation. Perhaps the next two T20Is will give a better picture, but India look a long, long way away from settling in on their best XI.
Sanju Samson deserves an extended run in the side
‘Sanju Samson showed promise, got off to a very good start and, emblematically, thew his wicket away prematurely’ is what the scorecard will tell you but there was more to the explosive right-hander’s knock. Walking in with considerable pressure at a crucial juncture - 48/2 in the 7th over; Kohli had just been dismissed - on a sticky wicket, Samson provided the lift that India badly needed, particularly with Rahul in his shackled IPL mode. He kept himself busy, ensured he put the bad balls away and was keen to not let the Aussie bowlers settle. What impressed the most about Samson’s short stay at the middle was his decision making - he picked the right balls to attack, including the one which he eventually succumbed to, where he was unlucky to not clear the in-field. However, the spark he showed will count for little should he get chucked out of the team instantaneously. It is now imperative that the management give Samson an extended run in the side. He certainly is a more natural fit in the T20 format than both Iyer and Pandey, and the payoff for the side, should Samson find his feet in international cricket, could be ginormous.
Jadeja has taken his batting to the next level - make no mistake
There was a moment in the final over of the Indian innings which made jaws drop. In serious discomfort, having hurt his hamstring, facing a rampant Mitchell Starc who was keen on chopping his head off, Ravindra Jadeja rocked back and smacked a 145 kph rocket to midwicket with utter disdain. It was a shot that typified the kind of form he’s been in of late, with the bat, and asserted that he no longer is just ‘someone who can bat’. In the IPL, Jadeja showcased many a time his evolved, quick-scoring, nonchalantly six-hitting, destructive 2.0 avatar and if there ever was any doubt if he had indeed taken his batting to the absolute next level, this tour has squashed it. With Jadeja it has never been about level-headedness and maturity, for he’s always had it, and only about his flexibility (read: the ability to hit sixes at will, the skill to make up for slow starts) and across his last three knocks this tour the southpaw has shown that he’s evolved enough to be considered a full-blown batting all-rounder. For a country like India seemingly short on finishers and power-hitters, the Jadeja metamorphosis opens myriad avenues heading into the future. He is no longer a mere utility; he is now an X-factor.
Glenn Maxwell is getting too fidgety in T20 cricket
Glenn Maxwell’s onslaught in the ODIs against India was seen as the biggest scam of the century - after hitting no sixes and averaging 15.42 in the IPL, he struck 11 sixes and 167 runs at a strike rate of almost 195. So on the back of seeing him almost play three match-winning innings in a row in 50-overs, there were a few nervous faces in the Indian camp when he came with just over 10 overs left. To their delight, and surprise, though, it took the Indians just three balls to see the back of Maxwell. Maxwell’s IPL 2020 poor run was attributed to lack of role clarity, bad luck and a lack of commitment. But contrary to popular belief, Maxwell’s woes in the T20s started a while before the IPL, in the England series. There he made 1, 26 and 6 - looking like a shadow of himself - with a lot of fidgetiness. The Victorian, unlike he bats in ODIs, looked desperate to make an early impact and get off the blocks quickly, and as a result went at the ball too hard and tried batting with quirkiness, compromising on shot selection. This fidgetiness was on display today, too, where, despite coming on the back of a resonant ODI series, he was searching with desperation for runs, something which was personified by a risky, inexplicable chip off his first ball. Unsurprisingly, like in the IPL, he fell cheaply and let his side down. Perhaps it’s not just an IPL thing, and perhaps Maxwell needs to be a lot less harsh on himself and give himself more time to unload, in the shortest format.