Team India seem to be making it a habit of coming back with aplomb after losing the first match of a series. They did it in Australia, recovering from the ignominy of 36. In the Test series against England, they were hammered rather brutally in the opener, only for the Englishmen to bear the brunt for the remainder of the series.
The T20Is also did not begin on an auspicious note for Team India. They looked totally out of sync, going down by eight wickets in the opening encounter. Having staged a recovery via their bowlers in the second match, Team India then found themselves 1-2 down, with their backs against the wall.
The first three matches of the series were claimed by teams winning the toss and chasing totals, forcing Michael Vaughan to joke that the best tosser could win the T20 World Cup.
Team India, however, turned things around and triumphed in the last two matches, batting first. As Eoin Morgan rightly pointed out, the hosts won the big moments and, thus deserving, the series.
3 reasons for Team India to cheer
In the wake of Team India’s memorable 3-2 T20I series triumph, we analyze three key factors behind the victory.
#1 Smashing arrival of Suryakumar Yadav
It’s been a long time coming. But Suryakumar Yadav, or SKY as he is fondly referred to, has finally arrived, and how. The first ball he faced in international cricket, from none other than Jofra Archer, was pulled over fine leg with sheer disdain. It was a bold statement of intent from Team India's newest batting star.
The amazing stroke was no flash in the pan as he went on to strike a dazzling 57 from 31 in the fourth T20I, which could have been much more but for a controversial catch. In the next match, he carried on from where he left off, driving and lofting with utter ease.
This time, it needed a spectacular display of athleticism on the boundary from Chris Jordan to cut short Yadav’s innings on 32 from 17. The ball seemed to be heading to the boundary when the fielder sprinted, and passed on the simplest of catches to Jason Roy, who could not believe his luck.
Unlucky? Well, the 30-year-old has had his fair share of near misses and disappointments in his career, so this wouldn’t be anything new to him. He came close to Team India selection numerous times in the past without making the cut.
There was enough drama around Yadav in this series as well. He did not get to bat on debut. The first catch he took in international cricket nearly popped out before gently settling into his palms. He was then dropped for the next game before being asked to bat at number three a match later. The rest is no mystery.
It has been that kind of a career for Yadav. As far as excitement is concerned, this SKY has no limit!
2. Shardul Thakur's wicket-taking ability under pressure
Shardul Thakur returned from Australia a hero, having featured in a Test-turning partnership with Washington Sundar at the Gabba. He impressed with the ball as well, picking up wickets at crucial times.
Following Team India’s come-from-behind T20I triumph against England, his reputation has been enhanced even further. He finished as the leading wicket-taker in the series, with eight scalps in five matches at a strike rate of 13.
Thakur had a very high economy rate of 9.69. What the numbers don’t tell you is when he got his wickets and how he swung around matches for Team India.
A bowler can get rid of tailenders and finish with impressive numbers, which is why it is imperative to look beyond just stats. In Thakur’s case, most of his wickets came in pressure-cooker situations, and were game-changing ones.
In fact, in all three T20Is that Team India won, Thakur’s role was prominent. In the second T20I, he came into bowl when England were looking to accelerate towards the end of the innings. He did not allow T20 masters like Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes to get away. Both were done in by his variations in pace.
In the fourth T20I, he outfoxed the same duo, this time off consecutive balls, to deliver a narrow win for Team India. While Bhuvneshwar Kumar stood out with a sensational spell in the decider, Thakur again left his stamp. For the second time in as many games, the pace bowler got two in an over, this time outwitting Jonny Bairstow and a well-set Dawid Malan.
As Virat Kohli once famously said, “Tula manla re Thakur”. (Hats off to you Thakur in Marathi).
#3 King Kohli’s masterful return to form
Perhaps for the first time in his career since 2014, Team India captain Virat Kohli went into the T20I series against England with an air of uncertainty hanging around him.
Forget the wait for the elusive hundred, Kohli’s general approach at the crease was becoming a cause for concern. After his fighting half-century in the second Test in Chennai, he registered scores of 27, 0 and 0 on in his next three international innings.
It was not the low scores but the manner in which he was getting dismissed that led to some question marks being raised. Kohli was completely done in by a short ball from Stokes in the first innings of the fourth Test in Ahmedabad, resulting a loose waft outside the off stump, something he rarely does.
In the first T20I, he backed away to his nemesis Adil Rashid and mistimed one straight into the hands of mid-off. It was the first time in his international career that Team India's leader had registered consecutive ducks.
Great players, though, know how to emerge out of a rut. That is what makes them special. With help from young Ishan Kishan, Kohli eased his way to an unbeaten 73 from 49 in the second T20I. It was a typical Kohli knock in the chase, sensible and assured.
Even though Team India lost the third T20I, Kohli displayed his sensational hitting range with a spectacular 77 not out from 46. On a surface where all the other Indian batsmen struggled, the captain showed the way, clearing the field with astonishing precision.
In hindsight, despite the defeat, this knock mattered most for Kohli, as it put him back in top gear as a batsman. By the time the final T20I came around, the Team India skipper was confident enough to lead from the front with the bat. He moved himself to the top of the order, putting KL Rahul out of his misery.
When Rohit Sharma and Yadav were going berserk, Kohli was content playing the second fiddle. But when the time came to shift gears, he was so incredibly swift, England’s bowlers were literally caught off guard. Throughout the series, Kohli assessed the situation and modified his game accordingly.
For someone who was out of form going into the T20Is, the Team India skipper didn’t do badly at all - walking away with the man of the series as his side completed another remarkable comeback.