CHENNAI: One-by-one, everyone is turning up to India’s T20 World Cup party. The mood is gradually beginning to change. Six months ago, they provided excitement with their new-found batting approach, before it turned sombre a month back. And as the big show nears, the mood is beginning to change again as was evident in Hyderabad in the third T20I against Australia. In fact, it could well be their first choice XI at the T20 World Cup.
Even though there are three T20Is coming up against South Africa, starting Wednesday, India will not have the services of Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who will be reporting at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru for conditioning.
Although they have come out of the Australia series with some much-needed confidence, there are still a few areas that need immediate attention. And more importantly their captain Rohit Sharma wants their “death bowling come to come to the party.” And without that, the gloss is missing and it is there for everyone to see.
While the batting unit and its approach have been the cynosure of all eyes, it is beginning to show definite signs of ascendance. The confidence, which is growing with each outing, is there to see. And while their batting migraine has reduced only to a mild headache in KL Rahul, the same can’t be said about the bowling, especially at the end overs. From the Super 4 stages of the Asia Cup to now (excluding the match against Afghanistan) India have conceded 43 (vs Pak), 42 (vs SL), 57 (Aus), 52 (Aus) in the last four overs.
Of course, conditions haven’t been kind, but their execution of deliveries and predictability have played a role. Bhuvneshwar has failed to make any sort of impact in the one over he bowls in the end. It has spiralled the problem manyfold.
“I don't think he's short in confidence, whenever I speak to him the confidence is there, you can have bad games but it's important to come back from that, and we want him to come back as quickly as possible, because he's bowled those difficult overs for us in the past,” skipper Rohit said of him. “We've been working on some execution plans and hopefully we can give him more options to bowl in the death and then he'll be as good as he was before."
Harshal Patel, who returned to the team for the Australia series after an injury, was the other option India had for the end overs. A deceptive slower one with multiple variations and releases had made him one of the hardest to pick in the IPL. But Harshal hasn’t been able to replicate those in the international arena, where his economy rate (9.05) is higher than his T20s (8.05).
“He missed cricket for close to two months. Whenever bowlers go through an injury phase and come back, it's never easy, so we've not really judged him on how he has performed in these three games because we know his quality. We believe in his quality, whatever he has as a bowler. You want players to go out and keep improving. We talk about it all the time; we can see that happening. So, I'm pretty sure he's not far from his best,” Rohit said.
Apart from being able options at the end overs, the two also give India much-needed depth in the batting front. With Arshdeep Singh around, India have another option to fall back on at the end overs, but that would mean India would have three No. 11s as their tail, which they want to avoid unless they choose to bench Yuzvendra Chahal and play R Ashwin instead.