Promising series to build on for Men in Blue

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  A T20I series decider between two top sides on a Sunday. It was all primed to be the perfect weekend entertainment with a packed atmosphere at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. Despite the imminent threat of rain, it seemed like things were going good as the toss happened on time. But just as the Indian openers took guard, the heavens opened. After a brief delay, play did start a good 30-40 minutes late. 

Ishan Kishan, after scoring two sixes in the opening over, lost his stumps to a slower ball. Fellow opener Ruturaj Gaikwad also was deceived by the slower ball before the rain gods visited once again. This time the downpour was non-stop and play was ultimately called off at 9.37 PM, with India on 28/2 after 3.3 overs. 

While the series might have ended in 2-2, despite the known flaws in the way India generally approach the format, there was a lot of promise, especially in the absence of the senior trio — captain Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul — at the top-order. For starters, they were showing a lot more intent with the bat irrespective of the consequences or situations. Sometimes it did cost them, like in the first two T20Is, but they were consistent with their approach and team selections, playing an unchanged XI in all five matches. While it did come as a bit of a surprise, their head coach Rahul Dravid was clear on what to expect ahead of the series. 

With Bhuvneshwar Kumar being the only experienced pacer in the squad, Umran Malik, and Arshdeep Singh had got call-ups. But only Avesh Khan got to play and he showed his capabilities, especially in the fourth T20I. Harshal Patel took wickets, and Bhuvneshwar got better with every game he played. And then there was Yuzvendra Chahal and Hardik Pandya amongst the thick of things as well.

“Our white-ball cricket has been good though, shows the character of the team. It was incredible to see the fast bowling talent we have (during the IPL), especially with few of the bowlers clocking such speeds,” Dravid told the host broadcaster ahead of the match.

In the batting department, Ishan, Ruturaj, Hardik and Dinesh Karthik all had their moments of glory. Perhaps the only concern is probably the lack of impact knocks from their captain Rishabh Pant. While he tried to continue his aggressive intent without scoring big, it could be interesting to see how things play out in the coming months with Sanju Samson and Karthik in the mix for the upcoming tour of Ireland.

Make no mistake, Rohit, Kohli and Rahul will walk into the side when they come back. And the bottom half of the batting order isn’t yet be locked in. But this series gave a glimpse of what the Indian T20I side could be without them. And it is promising to say the least. “A lot of youngsters got an opportunity to showcase their skills, and a lot of them came good, those are really good signs for Indian cricket, exciting times ahead,” Dravid said on Sunday. 

With several T20I games lined up in the lead-up to the World Cup, apart from all the excitement, it will also cause a problem of plenty for the team management and the selectors. But it would probably be a headache they would be happy to have. 

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