The main talking point of India fourth straight win in the T20I series over England is their new super-aggressive approach to batting. Rohit Sharma said it himself in Nottingham. The pros and cons of such an approach and what it means for a particular Virat Kohli have also been explored in these pages. Just like the influence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the revival of PowerPlay on the ball in India
But that’s not all, there’s still more to come from the series as India embarks on their final three-month run to these T20 Worlds in Australia. Here’s a look at this one.
Understand Pant, the opener
“In the intermissions, when you ask people to play a little more attacking cricket and play the game a little more, it’s very hard to judge based on just two or three games,” said Rahul Dravid of the skinny results.
Twenty days later, Pant opened the battlefield at Edgbaston, taking advantage of field restrictions en route to a 15-ball 26. Which begs the question: Will this be his role going forward?
Pant, who last started in a T20 in Syed Mushtaq Ali’s tournament final in 2019, leads an 18-inning batting average of 164.38. This includes one hundred and fifty. It is significantly higher than its T20I hit rate of 123.91 from 48 mid-tier games. So, given the score percentage premise that India wants to stick to, the move makes sense.
Then there’s the advantage of a left-right opening pair that can strive to maximize PowerPlay without being bound by the drawbacks of the matchup. By contrast, in T20I cricket, Pant also has a low hit-to-spin ratio (107.89), and opening the trick affects him that Test cricket has: fewer frontier runners.
But what happens when KL Rahul returns from injury? For a team that values role clarity, the film suggests that Pant should no longer compete with Dinesh Karthik for that murder specialist; he is most likely competing with Ishan Kishan for a backup starter job (assuming Rahul remains the first choice). That combination could leave India with just one left-hander, Ravindra Jadeja, in the top six and it’s a point where they are considering moving to Australia.
Jadeja, isn’t he a bowler anymore?
In India’s dominant win over Edgbaston, returning Jadeja threw two overs and gave up 22 runs. In Nottingham, Rohit Sharma picked a team that needed Jadeja to throw four and those overs cost India 45 with no wickets in return. India was hampered during the World Cup last year as Hardik Pandya’s injury status forced Jadeja to play as the fifth bowler. While Jadeja has enjoyed a renaissance as a white-ball cricketer since his return to the 2018 Asian Cup, the rise is largely attributed to his improved striking ability. He played in a six-man attack for CSK and has been asked to play his quota of four overs just 12 times in 28 games in the last three IPL seasons. The good news for India is that Hardik is back in bowling form, the two can share the fifth bowling task and protect each other from negative matchups.
The second frontline spinner
“We’re seeing something different in Bishnoi,” Rohit commented after Ravi Bishnoi won the Man of the Match award in his T20I debut against the West Indies. What is special is Bishnoi’s ability against left-handers. Although Bishnoi is classified as a legspinner, he throws the googly with more control and therefore handles well with the left. When he was selected in Nottingham, he fired Dawid Malan and Moeen Ali in the same case. He averages 23.84 per wicket against left-handers, well below 28.16 against right-handers, a possible alternative to Yuzvendra Chahal, the more traditional spin-and-dive spinner, against left-handed formations such as England and the West Indies.
India may still not have passed Ashwin for second place. The left-hander remains the ultimate left-handed killer and even showed his game ball development through the right-handers on duty. In 20 overs since his return (during the World Cup), Ashwin collected nine wickets (five right-handers, four left-handers) for an economy of 5.25. More interestingly, the right-handers didn’t score any limits against him on 71 balls.
After the first T20I in Southampton, where India lost five catches, Rohit complained about the field standards, calling them “sloppy” and begging his team to step up their efforts. There was a marginally better performance at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, but not without flaws. Yuzvendra Chahal put in a twirl with fine legs in the second game, while Harshal Patel and Virat Kohli made easier catches in the final game. India doesn’t have as good a field team as they did a few seasons ago and will have to adjust this aspect of their game.