With emphasis on intent, Team India finally begin to crack the T20 code
Whether or not, India will find success in Australia, only time will tell. But, what Kohli's men displayed in Mumbai was certainly a step in the right direction.
India's tactics in the shortest format of the game have been questionable over the last few months. First, the team was trying to extend their batting line-up by playing bowlers who could contribute with the bat as well.
Even after their bid to bat till 9-10 backfired, India were not able to get their playing XI right. From August onwards, they had been playing with three spinners out of which only one was a leggie.
Given that the T20 World Cup will be played in Australia, the move of playing two finger spinners was bereft of logic. Finally, some sense dawned upon the team and they decided to drop Krunal Pandya for the T20Is against West Indies.
Even then, for the first two matches of the series, they included all three of Washington Sundar, Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal in the playing XI. While Chahal merited his spot, it was clear that Washington Sundar and Ravindra Jadeja - two finger spinners - simply cannot play in the same XI.
Sundar pipped Jadeja to the post in this battle with his ability to bowl with the new ball and then provide a few quick run lower down the order. Hence, when India found themselves in a crunch situation in the series decider at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, they decided to drop Jadeja, which was a good move.
This gave them the head room to bring in an extra pacer in the form of Mohammed Shami. Shami has only played 27 T20Is since the beginning of 2017, which is the least among all the players in the current squad.
This had also to do with some fitness troubles. But, one of the major issues with Shami was that while he had always been good with the new ball, he was found out at the death.
Especially in the last couple of years, he has been in great rhythm with the red ball and it was only about time that he started to translate that into the white-ball formats. Having played his last T20I against West Indies in August, Shami returned to the playing XI in Mumbai to add an extra dimension to the Indian bowling unit.
The two other pacers in the playing XI were Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar. Just like Washington Sundar and Ravindra Jadeja, Chahar and Bhuvi are two similar kind of bowlers. Both bowl in the mid 130s and rely on swing.
This adversely effects India in two ways. One, as the ball stops moving after a couple of overs, they (especially Chahar) are half as effective. Two, with their medium pace, the batsmen can always adjust late and also take the attack to them. However, with Shami - as was evident in the last T20I as well - his skiddy nature and extra pace makes it extremely difficult for the batsmen to attack him.
In case of India's batting, it was more a case of luck by chance. With Shikhar Dhawan injured, India have finally managed to bring KL Rahul into their playing XI. Although it compromises on the left-right combination at the top of the order, Rahul, objectively speaking, is a better T20 player than Dhawan, at least on current form.
It is no secret that Dhawan has been struggling to up the ante of late and his timing has also downgraded. On the contrary, Rahul is hitting his peak at the moment.
Another advantage with him is that he plays long innings and not just cameos. Once he gets set, he carries on till 15 overs and beyond to put the team in a great position.
It was on the back of the 130+ opening partnership between Rahul and Rohit that India posted 72 runs in the powerplay, their second best score in the first six overs, batting first in T20Is.
Skipper Virat Kohli was a content man after India's performance in the final T20I. But, he is still wary of this formula, of out and out attack, working in the bigger grounds of Australia.
"Batting first, we have been too tight and hesitant, but this pitch allowed us to play freely. It was a good lesson for us and now we need to remember it. Depends on what pitch and ground you are playing on (whether scoring more boundaries is a must). You don't really feel the pressure when you have 20-25 runs on the board. Playing the World Cup in Australia, we will have to figure out how big the boundaries are," the skipper opined after the match.
Whether or not, India will find success in Australia, only time will tell. But, one thing is for sure. Kohli's men have at least come out of their shell and have started to express themselves, a prerequisite for them to have a chance of having a shot at the World T20 title.
©Cricket World 2019