Australia won a low-scoring thriller at Visakhapatnam as they beat India by 3 wickets in the first of the two-match T20I series. The game went down to the wire and Australia managed to squeeze out a win off the last ball of the match. In the end, Australia huffed and puffed for a win, a match they should have won comfortably.
There could be any number of reasons for India’s shocking defeat at home. The failure of the Indian batsmen other than KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant’s bizarre run-out, Dhoni’s denial of countless singles and a brace and Umesh Yadav’s death bowling.
But the most important factor for India’s defeat was the team combination.
#2 The tale of three wicket-keepers
In the last few T20Is, India has been going in with 3 wicket-keepers in the playing XI which has affected the team balance. In Vizag too, India preferred Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik thus packing the middle-order with wicketkeepers.
The presence of 3 wicket-keepers in the playing XI is one too many. It always affects the fielding standards and restricts the bowling-options. In the Australian innings, the Indians had a wonderful opportunity to dismiss DJM Short with a run-out, but Rishabh Pant, the third wicket-keeper in the team, missed that direct hit to give Short a lifeline.
Any other fielder could have missed that direct hit but with keeper-turned-fielder Pant, the probability of missing the direct-hit was more than hitting. The inclusion of a Vijay Shankar or a Kedar Jadhav in place of one of the three wicket-keepers could have given the team the perfect balance.
In any case, Shankar did not deserve to be dropped after his performances in New Zealand. With the injury concern to Hardik Pandya looming large, Vijay Shankar will have an important role to play for India in the World Cup. Though Kedar Jadhav was in the T20I squad for the New Zealand tour, he never got his opportunity.
The Indian selectors seemed to be traveling in the right path when they dropped MS Dhoni for the T20I series against West Indies and Australia earlier last year. But he was called back for the New Zealand and Australia series perhaps with an intention to give him more match practice before the World Cup. That experiment has backfired with India ending up with too many wicket-keepers in the playing XI.
When it comes to ODI batting, Dhoni is at his best with his waiting game. He can play the anchor role to perfection in ODIs. But in T20I, he has been struggling to score quickly and in this format, there is no place for a batsman playing the sheet anchor role.
As far as Dinesh Karthik is concerned, he is a safe keeper and a finisher. But his finishing ability is limited to the last few overs when the target is in sight. Besides, his utility value is diminished when India bats first.
Rishabh Pant is the embodiment of T20 cricket. Pant with his aggressive intent can take the game away from the opposition. Besides, he is the only left-handed option in the middle-order. Hence, the selector’s choice is straight forward going ahead in T20Is.