Team India made an excellent comeback after losing the first T20I against Australia in Mohali to clinch the three-match series by a 2-1 margin. After failing to defend 208 in the opening encounter, Axar Patel (2/13) and Rohit Sharma (46* off 20) combined to lift them to victory in the shortened eight overs per side contest in Nagpur.
Axar shone again in the decider in Hyderabad with a three-fer. Australia recovered well to post 186 for seven. However, Suryakumar Yadav (69 off 36) and Virat Kohli (63 off 48) featured in a century stand for the third wicket to pave the way for Team India’s series-clinching win. They got home by six wickets with one ball to spare.
The hosts will take a lot of confidence from their come-from-behind victory against the Aussies, going into their next assignment against South Africa. However, there are still a few issues they need to sort out. We look at three areas of concern for the Men in Blue ahead of the T20Is against the Proteas, which begins on September 28.
#1 Death bowling woes
Death overs bowling hurt Team India in the Asia Cup. There was not much relief from the problem in the home series against Australia, despite the comebacks of Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel. Both looked rusty and struggled to make an impact.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, meanwhile, carried on from where he left off during the Asia Cup. His struggles in the end overs have led to hilarious memes on social media. But with the T20 World Cup coming up, his lack of efficiency is no laughing matter.
Bhuvneshwar is failing to get his line and length right game-after-game. Barring the inconsequential Asia Cup Super 4 clash against Afghanistan, in which he picked up a five-fer while hardly giving away any runs, he has been extremely expensive.
He conceded 15 and 16 runs in the two death overs he bowled in Mohali. In Hyderabad, he was tonked for 21 runs in the 18th over. His lack of pace and inability to make the ball talk have made him an easy bowler to attack.
Harshal and Bumrah need to be given some leeway considering they have only just returned after recovering from their respective injuries. However, economy rates in excess of 12 will definitely worry Team India’s think tank. Harshal's lack of control over his yorkers meant he was giving away easy runs via full tosses.
#2 Yuzvendra Chahal’s inconsistency
Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal ended the T20I series on an impressive note, registering figures of one for 22 in the decider in Nagpur. He got the wicket of Steven Smith, stumped off a googly. However, it was another disappointing series for Chahal overall. He was slammed for 42 in 3.2 overs in Mohali and didn’t have much of a role to play in the shortened match in Nagpur.
Inconsistency has been Chahal’s major problem. In the Asia Cup as well, he picked up only one wicket in the first three matches before coming up with an impressive three-fer against Sri Lanka. When batters take the attack to him, he ends up looking flat, which is not good news for Team India ahead of the ICC event.
Former India opener Wasim Jaffer summed up Chahal’s woes during an interaction on ESPNcricinfo. He explained:
“The leg-spinners around the world who have done well, they have a lot of variations. The likes of Rashid (Khan) and (Wanindu) Hasaranga slip in that googly quite often. We don’t see that with Chahal, even though he got Steven Smith stumped with a googly.”
#3 Lackluster fielding
Fielding is a highly important component in T20Is along with batting and fielding. An honest evaluation led to the conclusion that Team India have not been at their best in this department in recent times.
Their Asia Cup campaign suffered as Arshdeep Singh dropped a sitter in the Super 4 match against Pakistan. There was a massive backlash after India went on to lose the game and could never recover from the pressure they found themselves under.
There wasn’t much improvement in the T20I series against Australia at home. Butter-fingered India dropped three catches in Mohali as Axar, KL Rahul and Harshal dropped chances offered by Cameron Green, Smith and Matthew Wade.
Australia benefited from the reprieves and went on to chase 208. In Hyderabad, Axar put down another relatively simple catch from Smith at backward point off Hardik Pandya’s bowling.
Team India were lucky to get away with the error as Smith could not build on his luck. But such basic errors could cost the Men in Blue in a big way in the T20 World Cup. As such, apart from their batting and bowling performances, India’s fielding effort should also be put under the scanner when they take on South Africa.