The Indian batsmen underperformed with the bat for the second time in three games as England coasted to a convincing eight-wicket victory in the 3rd T20I to go 2-1 up in the series. While skipper Virat Kohli shone like a diamond, the performance of the rest of the batsmen left a lot to be desired.
Rahul’s confidence is shot, and his form is a major concern
Perhaps Rahul got lucky today, as Ishan Kishan, the man who two days ago looked like he was on a mission to seal his place in the side as an opener, perished for a 9-ball 4. But make no mistake, the Karnataka man is now starting to feel the heat. For the third time in a row in this series, Rahul looked absolutely befuddled out there in the middle, and for the fourth time in a row in T20Is, he perished for a binary score. Getting out for low scores is not a concern, but Rahul today looked like a batsman whose confidence was genuinely shot. It was almost as if he didn’t know where his next run was going to come from; the expression on his face after having his timber cleaned up was akin to how he was reacting in late 2018 during the Australia tour.
It is too premature to suggest that his place in the side is under scrutiny, but this series, undoubtedly, is a little warning sign that Rahul by no means is a lock, yet, for the starting XI in the World T20. There is, of course, every chance that he could turn things around in the very next game, but if his form and confidence are anything to go by, then he is going to be entering yet another IPL season under considerable pressure to perform. Not ideal for India in a WT20 year, given how much of a confidence player the Karnataka man is.
England cannot keep relying on just Adil Rashid - it will eventually come back to bite them
Eoin Morgan said post the 2nd T20I how he expects the red-soil pitch in the third T20I to turn and many saw those comments as an indication that the visitors might field Moeen Ali. Eventually, they didn’t, and ultimately it didn’t hurt them. England ended up restricting India to just 156 and it was the pacers who did all the damage.
But that’s not the point here. It is not about today; it is about the bigger picture. England simply cannot keep relying on Adil Rashid, without even giving the second spinner a look in. There was plenty of assistance for pace today, like in the first game, yes, but not every wicket in the WT20 will provide pace and bounce. There will be wickets - and plenty of them - where the pacers will have absolutely no role to play and a bulk of the damage will have to be done by the spinners.
England already have committed the heinous crime of grooming no young spinners, so the least they can do is ensure that their second spinner is ready. By not even giving Moeen a game, they are all but digging a long-term grave for themselves. What if Rashid sustains an injury before the WT20? Or what if Rashid, whilst playing as a lone spinner, endures a bad day? What then?
Pretty short-sighted thinking from a skipper who prides on long-term thinking.
India’s role-definition is all over the place
We all had our hands in our heads when Suryakumar Yadav did not walk out to bat in the second T20I but keeping him at No.6 in that particular game made sense; Iyer was the man in form and sending him to knock off the remaining runs was sensible. What on sweet earth were India thinking today, though?
Making Kishan bat at No.3 was bizarre - he bats at No.4 for MI - but the thinking behind the move was to give him the license to kill. So it made sense. But sending in Iyer, an accumulator, to bat at No.6 in the 12th over with Pandya left in the sheds was flabbergasting. He would, first of all, have been better off coming in at No.5 - when India were 24/3 - but once he didn’t, there simply was no logic in sending Iyer in at No.6, particularly with Pant and Kohli having done a decent rebuild job. Pandya, as he showed in the Australia tour, is no slogger and giving the all-rounder more time would, if anything, have helped him settle and inflict more damage.
The question also needs to be asked - if Iyer is not going to bat in the Top 5, is he of any use to the side? He is not someone who can go crash, bang, wallop from the get go, so if he is not going to be sent in immediately after an early collapse, what is the real purpose of having him in the side? Would the side, then, not be better off with a Suryakumar Yadav, who can start in fifth gear from ball one?
India need to sort out their issues batting first - particularly if they are going to play only 4 specialist bowlers
Every game Virat Kohli, after losing the toss, says jubilantly that he is ‘happy’ to be batting first as it challenges his batsmen, but every time, somehow, India end up posting a below-par score. For the second time this series their batsmen fell at least 30 runs short on a pretty good batting wicket - as proved by the innings of Kohli - and for the second time, they saw England chase down the target without breaking a sweat.
The concern for India is that this - of them batting poorly when batting first - is becoming a pattern. In each of the last 6 occasions they’ve batted first in T20Is, they’ve posted below-par totals. Only once they’ve scored 170 or more - and that match ended as a tie - and they’ve only won 2 of these 6 games, both of which were rendered possible by astonishing chokes by the batting side. One hoped that the team would have learned its lesson after a hideous showing in the first T20I but India’s display today was more or less the same, barring a trademark Kohli blinder.
Posting below-par totals, in particular, becomes a problem for India in the current set-up, where they are fielding just four specialist bowlers. Just five bowling options available means that every bowler will have to get through their quota of 4 overs, leaving no margin for error. A bit of cushion would help the side if they are fielding 4 bowlers, but if India’s batting is going to continuously underperform, the team would be better off fielding five specialist bowlers.