TimesofIndia.com here takes a quick look at the big positives for Rohit Sharma and co. and some of the big areas of concern that still remain.
Virat Kohli manning the Number 3 slot
There has been so much talk about Virat Kohli’s form in the last few years that it’s somewhat strange to not read multiple headlines about him struggling with the bat.
As far as Team India is concerned the former India captain ending a 1021 day wait for his 71st international century was a big signal that Virat the prolific batter might just be back. With the T20 World Cup around the corner, the way Virat played in the 3rd match of the T20I series vs Australia was a big positive for the Men in Blue who are eyeing their first T20 World Cup title since winning the inaugural edition under MS Dhoni’s captaincy in 2007.
Virat Kohli (PTI Photo)
Virat will bat at the very important number 3 slot in the World Cup as well and in the match vs Australia on Sunday he used all his experience to not just steady the run chase but also very effectively switch between aggressor and anchor. His 48 ball 63 was crucial for the hosts as they chased down a very tricky 187 run target.
From both a personal and team point of view this knock was an important one. In the first two matches Virat managed scores of 2 and 11. Virat’s strike rate is also something that both he and the team management will be keeping an eye on. Overall he finished as the fifth highest run getter of the series (76 runs) with a series strike rate of 124.59.
Virat is an impact player and most importantly, he looked and sounded confident after this knock. A high on confidence Virat is an asset India will be hoping to carry into the World Cup in October.
Suryakumar Yadav doing what he does best
There’s no doubt that Suryakumar Yadav is India’s best T20I batter currently. In fact he is now the highest run-getter in T20Is in 2022. He currently has 682 runs this year at an average of 38. In this 3 match series vs Australia, SKY finished as the second highest run-getter (115 runs), just 3 runs behind Cameron Green (118). His strike rate in the series was 185.48.
The duck in the rain-curtailed second match which was reduced to an 8 overs a side affair was an aberration.
Suryakumar Yadav (AP Photo)
His knock of 69 off 36 with five fours and as many sixes on Sunday was another reminder of just how important he is in the Indian T20I scheme of things. At number 4, Surya will play a very big role in the World Cup for India. In this series, where he had scores of 46, 0 and 69, SKY played shots around the ground, once again showcasing his 360 degree abilities. At a time when KL Rahul and also at times Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are struggling from game to game, a consistent Surya who is firing on all cylinders is worth his weight in gold.
He will undoubtedly be one of the big scalps that opposition teams will be targeting at the World Cup.
Hardik Pandya batting form and bowling
All-rounders are the most valuable commodities in a T20 team and a full-fit Hardik Pandya when on song is a sight to behold.
While everyone was busy talking about Virat and Surya and their extremely valuable 104 run stand, Hardik’s contribution with the bat in the 3rd T20I vs Australia of an unbeaten 25 off 16 with two fours and a six was absolute gold-dust.
Hardik Pandya (AFP Photo)
Hardik’s six off Josh Hazlewood in the first ball of the 19th over, where he picked up a low full toss and whipped it for a maximum over long-on is a shot that cricket fans will be talking about for some time to come. It was a shot that can only be played by someone who is brimming with confidence. And that is Hardik for you. Hands down India’s most lethal fast bowling all-rounder, Hardik finished the series as the third highest run-getter with 105 runs, just behind Green and SKY. His strike rate for the series was almost 191.
He might not have taken any wickets in the 3T20I series vs Australia and he might have finished with an economy rate of over 9, but Hardik Pandya bowled a few deliveries in the series that the Aussie batters found very difficult to handle. As the sixth bowling option for Rohit Sharma, Hardik the bowler could well be a handful on the Australian pitches in the World Cup. Hardik will be reporting at the NCA now for conditioning.
Areas of concern:
It’s no secret that death-overs bowling is India’s biggest area of concern. In the first T20I vs Australia, the hoists were unable to defend a score of 208. The Aussies plundered as many as 53 runs in the last three overs to win that match.
Rohit Sharma has admitted that death-overs bowing remains a concern, with just 3 international T20s left for India to play before the World Cup.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (AFP Photo)
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been struggling at the death and has sent down quite a few very expensive 19th overs in the recent past. Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel have just come back to the team after recovering from their injuries and are yet to fully hit their straps. Bumrah, Bhuvi, Harshal and Arshdeep Singh will be India’s four main fast bowling options at the World Cup, along with all-rounder Hardik Pandya. At least three of those five will have to be on the top of their games for India to consistently do well.
In the 3rd T20I vs Australia on Sunday, the tourists were struggling at 117/6 after 14 overs. The last 6 overs though went for 69 runs as they finished with an imposing 186/7. On days when the batting doesn’t click, leaking runs at the death will be catastrophic.
KL Rahul form and consistency of the top 3
KL Rahul has been struggling to find consistency of late. It’s not a secret. He had one fifty plus score in the Asia Cup (62) and had a total of 132 runs in 5 innings.
In the 3 T20I series vs Australia he finished with 66 runs in 3 innings, with a strike rate of about 147. He hit four boundaries and four sixes and a highest score of 55.
India will need Rahul to be more consistent at the top.
The team management in fact will be hoping that the top 3 overall find consistency. In the 3 T20Is vs Australia, the opening wicket stands were worth – 21, 39 and 5.
When Rahul fired, Rohit and Virat couldn’t make an impact. When Rohit took the bowlers to the cleaners in the second T20I, Rahul and Virat fell early. On Sunday, when Virat scored 63, Rahul and Rohit combined managed to make just 18.
India dropped three catches in the opening T20I vs Australia. The third one to be fair was a very tough one – Harshal Patel dropping Matthew Wade off his own bowling.
Good fielders like Axar Patel and KL Rahul dropped catches in this series. Axar in fact dropped one catch in the opening match and then another in the third T20I on Sunday, when he dropped Steve Smith off Hardik’s bowling at backward-point.
Over the years, India have evolved as one of the better catching and fielding teams in the world. Now, with less than a month to go for the World Cup, the Men in Blue would not want those standards to drop.
Watch out for:
Does India have raw muscle power? Firepower that can take on any bowling attack at any given point in time in a match? Planning a chase is something India do well, especially when someone like Virat Kohli is anchoring it. But while batting first, India need to find the muscle to turn a good score into a great one in the space of a few overs on a consistent basis.
The first T20I vs Australia was a great example of what Indian power-hitting can do. After the 15th over the hosts were at 141/4, going at 9.40 an over. They finished with 208/6, with Hardik scoring a scintillating 30 ball 71*. The last three deliveries of India’s innings were hit for sixes by Hardik.
The likes of Hardik, DK and Pant are big hitters in the middle order. If Suryakumar is batting in the death overs he too can be extremely destructive. But on a consistent basis Indian power-hitters will have to match the likes of Mitchell Bracewell, Liam Livingstone, Jimmy Neesham, Moeen Ali, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Mohammad Nawaz and others if India have to out-hit opposition at the World Cup.