5-0 Win in NZ T20Is: Key Lessons for India Ahead of This Year’s WC
Takeaways from India’s 5-0 series sweep in New Zealand.
Two Super Overs, one calculated heist, one lucky heist and a bullish win. This pretty much sums up India's series whitewash of New Zealand in a country where they had won just one T20I prior to the start of this series.
Indian players go on to play the Indian Premier League (IPL) next with no T20I series scheduled between now and the summer festival. The T20 World Cup – the big tournament for which preparations are in full swing – is slated for October, and India have a few takeaways from this series that they might find useful when picking teams in the future for the shortest format of the game.
In T20Is, KL Rahul Trumps Shikhar Dhawan
The KL Rahul-Shikhar Dhawan debate has been on for a while now. While Dhawan has often edged Rahul in ODIs, the latter has prevailed in T20Is with his impactful performances in the IPL providing further evidence of his temperament for the shortest format of the game.
Going into the New Zealand series, India still had Dhawan in the squad until he pulled out with an injury and Rahul used the chance to hammer down his place in the team sheet. The Karnataka opener was a menace for the Kiwis as he slammed scores of 56*, 57, 27, 39 and 45, scoring at a rate of over 135 in four of the five games. Rahul's T20I average of 45.65 is stupendous in this format. He has two hundreds and 11 half-centuries on top of that, making him one of the most dangerous T20I openers. This series just went on to show why Rahul is ages ahead of Dhawan in this format of the game.
Manish Pandey's Heroics
Manish Pandey has been left on the bench far too many times since making a comeback to the Indian team. A ferocious player at domestic and India A levels, Pandey took it upon himself to finish off matches at one point of time for his local teams. That has seemingly translated into the Indian setup with him remaining unbeaten in all of his last seven innings for India in the format.
Pandey was last dismissed in August 2019 in T20Is. Since then he has made 2*, 22*, 31*, 14*, 14*, 50* and 11* in the format for India.
In fact, since the beginning of 2018, he has only been dismissed 6 times in T20Is in 20 innings and averages 78 – obviously beefed up by those not outs. It also speaks of the way India have used Pandey in the format. This series, the management brought him below Shivam Dube despite the Mumbai all-rounder consistently underperforming with the bat. The half-century at Wellington should ideally have shown India that Pandey adds better value when given time at the crease. With his gun fielding adding to his finishing skills, Pandey might just be indispensable for India, especially if Hardik Pandya's fitness continues being a concern.
The T20I Bowling Attack
Jasprit Bumrah and Shardul Thakur played all five games, Mohammed Shami played three and Navdeep Saini played two matches. While sample sizes are small, there was enough evidence pointing towards India's possible T20 bowling attack for the World Cup later this year. Bumrah was at his menacing best after Kane Williamson took him apart in one game. He ended the series with a brilliant 3 for 12 to sign off in style. Thakur, who has often been in and out of the squad, played an impactful hand including delivering a crunching final over to force a Super Over in the fourth T20I.
Shami showcased a wide repertoire of variations and has become a phenomenal death bowler in recent times. The new find, Navdeep Saini, was equally good in the series, delivering pressure overs with aplomb and standing out with his thinking and temperament. With Deepak Chahar and Hardik Pandya – both injured now – possibly returning for the next series, India might have tough choices to make but the fast bowling pool they have right now is incredible for T20I cricket and almost certainly match-winning on its own.
Fringe Players Need to Step Up
While there are bound to be quite a lot of positives from a 5-0 series win, India do have concerns regarding their efficiency in defending totals in the format with New Zealand botching up three games in the series. A glaring factor that stood out in India's on and off blips in the series was the lack of impactful performances from the fringe players tried during the series.
Sanju Samson was given back-to-back opportunities at the top but failed to fire in both matches. More than not grabbing chances, the manner in which Samson was dismissed reeked of a distinct lack of temperament. Shivam Dube was consistently given chances with bat and ball but ended the series with 41 runs in all and an economy of 11.33 with the ball, including leaking 34 runs in an over in the final match.
Washington Sundar was also forgettable in the two matches he played, conceding runs at 8.8 and picking up just one wicket in two matches.
With the fringe players not delivering, India might want to try and cast their net wider before the World Cup. The likes of Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Suryakumar Yadav, Prasidh Krishna and Krunal Pandya offer alternatives with the upcoming IPL providing another chance to keep an eye out for standout performers who deserve the step up.
Fielding and Catching
There have been some eye-catching blinders on the field by the Indians with Virat Kohli's outrageous run-out of Colin Munro in the fourth game and Sanju Samson's brilliant stop in the boundary in the final match showcasing what they are capable of in the field. But India also put down five catches during the course of the series with the skipper himself and Ravindra Jadeja – two of the best fielders in the side – guilty of dropping chances.
The ground fielding was also found wanting on a lot of occasions even if there were signs of utter brilliance at times. With the T20 World Cup coming up, fielding is one area India would want to polish up. They have some brilliant ground fielders in the side and ironing out those occasional dropped chances might not be too much of a hassle. That said, it remains an area of concern, as this series portrayed.
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.