Youth power: Signs of promise for India

Rinku, Yashasvi and Jitesh's performances have been highlights so far as hosts seal T20I series against Australia.
Indian bowler Axar Patel with captain Suryakumar Yadav celebrates the wicket of Australian batter Ben McDermott. (Photo | PTI)
Indian bowler Axar Patel with captain Suryakumar Yadav celebrates the wicket of Australian batter Ben McDermott. (Photo | PTI)

CHENNAI: During the pre-match conference of the game between India and New Zealand at the T20 World Cup in Nagpur in 2016, Virat Kohli had given an interesting insight into the psyche of a modern Indian cricketer.

"Our youngsters also have anxiety in them but they have a lot more confidence compared to us (senior players) when we first came in," he had said inside one of the rooms at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium. "In this format, their preparation and mental set-up is very different from mine when I first came in. These guys have played IPL finals, performed in different conditions and have brought that confidence here."

He was speaking about the likes of Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah, who were making their tournament debuts at the ICC level. Since then, Pandya has gone on to become the premier white-ball allrounder while Bumrah is already a great.

It was easy to go back to what Kohli had observed seven years while watching two of India's batters tear into the Australian bowling attack in Raipur on Friday. Sure, this may be a largely meaningless bilateral series — it started fewer than 100 hours after a World Cup finished — but that hasn't bothered the likes of

Rinku Singh and Yashasvi Jaiswal. Both of them have already displayed the fearlessness this format calls for in the first three games of the series.

At Raipur, Jitesh Sharma, two months on from winning Asian Games gold, showcased that same fearlessness. Keeping him company at the other end was of course Rinku. Together, the pair put on 56 runs in 32 balls to help the hosts clinch the series.

If you want to stick to management speak, then the result isn't really that important. There are no ranking points. But all teams value process and this series has played an important role in putting the likes of Rinku, Jitesh and Jaiswal — the latter was second top-scorer with a 28-ball 37 — front and centre.

Coming into the game, Jitesh had five international runs. Fifteen minutes after coming into bat on Friday, he had made a 19-ball 35. His first two sixes — both off spinner Chris Green — was pure ball-striking, a throwback to IPL games featuring Punjab Kings in summers. A slog sweep was followed with a perfect connection that took the ball over long off. Minutes later, he worked an Aaron Hardie short ball over fine leg for another maximum.

Three maximums in three different parts of the ground.

At the other end, Rinku, who has begun his international career as if it's book cricket, was matching shot for shot. His first six off the evening was a reminder of the element of improvisation that exists in this format. He switched hit a Matthew Short delivery over long leg. It even brought a sense of amazement from Suryakumar Yadav.

That, though, was just a starter. The mains was when he danced down to Ben Dwarshuis to muscle him wide off long on. He finished his innings with a couple of boundaries off Jason Behrendorff.
On the evidence of this performance, at least two of Rinku, Jaiswal and Jitesh will be making ICC tournament debuts before long. Luckily for them, there's one coming in under eight months time.

Brief scores: India 174/9 in 20 ovs (Rinku 46, Yashasvi 37, Jitesh 35; Dwarshuis 3/40) bt Australia 154/7 in 20 ovs (Wade 36 n.o; Axar 3/16).

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