India’s Gains From New Zealand’s Pains
The Indian economy may be down and its growth rate sluggish but the stock of Indian cricket has never been higher. Under Virat Kohli’s leadership Team India has emerged as a major force in international cricket and looked to dominate their opponents, both at home and abroad over the past six months across all three formats of the game. However, missing from their list of achievements is a major trophy from an ICC event.
The disappointment of losing to New Zealand in the semi-final of the ICC World Cup (50 overs) last year caused much anguish to millions of fans as Team India squandered yet another chance to win a big-ticket event. Kohli & Co. are, however, determined to make amends and are now targeting the T20 World Cup to be held in Australia in October.
The selectors and the team management have been ticking the right boxes as a concerted effort is being made to put together the strongest possible squad in a bid to regain the world T20 crown. The fact that India have won 15 of their last 18 T20 Internationals points to the fact that the team is headed in the right direction. On Sunday, India completed an unprecedented 5-0 whitewash of New Zealand, outplaying the hosts in a five-match series.
The following are the key takeaways from India’s fabulous feat:
Holding nerve in crunch situations
The manner in which the Indian team came back from the dead and snatched victory from jaws of defeat in the last three games will no doubt boost the confidence of the players — particularly the young and the inexperienced ones. Forcing two Super Overs (in 3rd and 4th matches), while defending moderate totals, speaks volumes about the quality and variety of the Indian attack. Equal credit should go to batsmen for coming up with the big shots in Super Overs to seal the deal.
KL Rahul’s all-round brilliance
The Karnataka stylist has struck a purple patch and was at his imperious best right through the series. With Shikhar Dhawan pulling out injured, Rahul showed that he is not only capable of giving the team a fine start but can also anchor the innings. His crisp shot-making and excellent work behind the stumps with the big gloves saw him blossom as an ‘all-rounder’. With Rohit Sharma, Rahul and Kohli, occupying the top-three spots, India’s batting looks formidable.
Shreyas Iyer ends No.4 debate
The Mumbai right-hander’s talent was never in doubt. His temperament had been letting him down. However, the fluency with which he batted in the series and even finished games, suggested that he has slayed the demons in his head and has finally arrived. His ability to produce the big hits under pressure and his electric fielding make him a complete package, well-suited to meet the demands of the shorter formats of the game.
Manish Pandey as finisher
The first Indian to hit a century in IPL, Pandey, has been in and out of the playing XI as the team management has struggled to get the balance of the side right. With Rahul now doubling up as the wicket-keeper, Pandey has finally been slotted in at No. 5 or 6 in a finishing role that MS Dhoni had made his own. Pandey can not only score briskly but also improvise effectively. He is an asset on the field, particularly in the deep, with a safe pair of hands.
All-rounder’s slot still up for grabs
Dearth of quality pace-bowling all-rounders continues to hurt the balance of the Indian team. Injured Hardik Pandya’s long-term absence prompted the selectors to first try out Vijay Shankar in that role before they turned to Mumbai’s Shivam Dube. However, in spite of being given a series of chances, Dube flopped with both, bat and ball and was upstaged by Shardul Thakur, who caught the eye with his clean and hard hitting down the order and clever variations with the ball at the death.
Jadeja automatic choice
The new fad in T20 cricket is to include wrist spinners in the playing XI at the expense of finger spinners. India too have been well-served by wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav over the past couple of years, but left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja has bounced back with a series of fine all-round displays to re-claim his rightful place in the XI. Given his considerable ability with the bat and superb fielding skills, it is no surprise that Jadeja has emerged as India’s first-choice spinner in white-ball cricket.