CHENNAI: Mitchell Santner was the star of the show. Chasing 127 on the opening night of the World T20 super group in 2016, some bookies had already reduced odds on an Indian win to less than evens but the finger-spinner had other ideas. The strip was friendly and the 24-year-old got down to work. Less than an hour later, he had figures of 4-0-11-4. It shocked the cricketing world. Here was an unfamiliar face making Rohit Sharma & Co look like club batsmen who had won the lottery.
With the benefit of hindsight, that spell wasn’t a flash in the pan. It was the beginning of a trend. The Men In Blue have been like machines, winning everything. Against Kiwi bowlers, and by extension, against Santner, that aura of invincibility is not there. The stats bear this out.
In the 30 T20Is India have played since January 1, 2016, they have won 20 and lost 9. Against the spin of Santner and Ish Sodhi, another one who has troubled Indian batsmen, they have played three and lost two. While chasing, in ODIs and T20Is, their win percentage is 64.7. Against this side, it drops down to 25.
That may be a small sample size but they rank lower in all metrics when their overall record is compared to record against matches involving the Hamilton-born lad (see table).
Former international Maninder Singh reckons it is down to the height factor.
“The one big advantage he has (over other visiting spinners) is height. He uses it to good effect and also has good variations.”
Maninder comes back to from where he releases the ball.
“He gets that natural bounce from the wicket. He doesn’t try to experiment too much.” Simple, yet effective. That was his mantra whenever he bowled to MS Dhoni in ODIs. Dhoni has faced 95 delivers, scoring only 54 runs.
“I guess at the start I try to keep it simple. I try to pull the length up and tuck him up a little bit,” he said at the pre-match press conference in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. It looks like Sodhi has also decided to go down the same path. “Ish bowled a superb length, pulled it back and made it hard.”
If the pair gets to grips, India could well be in danger of losing their recent record.