Wednesday, August, 17,2022

MAJOR GAINS BUT SOME WORRIES TOO FOR TEAM INDIA!

After a phenomenal comeback from being 2-0 down and the series decider on the line, the Indian team watched Rain Gods playing spoilsport in Bengaluru last Sunday. The India-South Africa T20I series ended with 2 wins apiece. Cricket lovers were hoping for a cracker of a contest in the final match but that was not to be as the game was called off with barely three overs bowled in the series decider. Despite ending on a disappointing note, the series had several positive takeaways for the Men in Blue ahead of the T20 World Cup later this year.

COMEBACK BY DINESH KARTHIK The remarkable comeback by Dinesh Karthik was the most heart-warming aspect for Indian fans. Enjoying a second wind to his career, Karthik had returned to Team India after three years on the back of some sterling performances in the IPL. But many wondered if he could replicate his IPL success in Indian colours against a strong South African side.
Karthik, however, carried his IPL form into the international arena and scored at a hugely impressive rate of 158.62 against the Proteas. Warming up with an unbeaten 30 off 21 balls in the second match, Karthik smashed a magical 55 off 27 balls in the fourth game. Given his power-packed shows, voices are growing for Karthik’s inclusion in the T20 World Cup squad as many believe that he can play the role of finisher to near-perfection.

HARDIK PANDYA’S PERFORMANCE Like Karthik, Hardik Pandya too made an impactful return to Team India. After leading Gujarat Titans to victory in IPL 2022, Hardik made crucial contributions all through the series. After a blistering 31 off 12 balls in the opening game in Delhi, he hit another 30-plus score in the game at Vizag. Also, in the Rajkot game, he made a vital 46 off 31 balls enabling India to recover from a dicey 81 for four.
Another major plus is Ishan Kishan’s form. Despite being the costliest buy in the IPL auction at 15.25 crores, the young opener was rather unimpressive in the Mumbai Indians’ disastrous IPL campaign this year. But the talented left-hander turned things around against South Africa and was the top rungetter, hammering 206 runs at an average of 41.20 and a terrific strike rate of 150.36.

ON THE BOWLING SIDE On the bowling side, veteran pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar posed a lot of challenges to South African batters. Till a few months ago, Bhuvi’s ability to swing the ball seemed to have gone missing and his place in Team India appeared doubtful. But he rediscovered his bite and stifled most Proteas batters and was eventually named the ‘Player of the Series’.
If Bhuvi looked like a bowler reborn, Harshal Patel was also impressive and can aspire for a T20 World Cup berth. Besides bagging seven wickets, it was great to see how he learnt from his mistakes. Even young pacer Avesh Khan displayed his wares with skill. Despite some former cricketers asking for his exit from the playing XI, the team management stood firm and Avesh repaid their trust in Rajkot by bagging 4/18 in a hostile spell and seems ready to serve Indian cricket in the long run.
Beyond the positives, there were a few areas of concern as well. Rishabh Pant’s form was possibly the biggest worry. The middle-order was a point of concern as not only Pant but even Shreyas Iyer kept struggling to strike form. As the first-choice T20I wicket-keeper currently, Pant’s form is worrying and as the stand-in skipper too, his captaincy left a lot to be desired.

SELECTION OF PLAYERS In addition, the same 11 players were picked for all five matches, with stability being the name of the game. The refusal to change players implied that young seamers like pace sensation Umran Malik and left-arm Arshdeep Singh didn’t play a single game. While consistency in selections is a laudable policy, both the young pacers deserved a look in. In particular, denying a debut to 22-year-old Umran who regularly clocked over 150 in IPL games, seems like a major chance missed on home grounds.

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

SIDDHAARTH MAHAN The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry

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