One of the major concerns for India is that neither Arshdeep nor Bhuvneshwar is a reliable option in death overs.
In what was a thrilling clash where the balance kept swinging to and fro, it was Virat Kohli’s stroke-filled half-century that proved to be the difference between India and Pakistan in the T20 World Cup at MCG. Kohli marshalled the chase with a sense of clarity and purpose, soaking in everything coming his way in the initial half with great ease, and then going berserk in the death overs to snatch the victory from the jaws of defeat. The four-wicket win means the account is now settled, as last year India were on the receiving end.
While the victory is undisputable, the manner in which it came has laid bare the shortcomings that India need to address with urgency. We take a look at five such issues that India need to solve sooner than later to win this tournament.
In the only over he bowled in Melbourne, Axar Patel ended up conceding 21 runs. Iftikhar Ahmed shed off the cautiousness he showed early in his innings, and smashed three towering sixes to take Pakistan from 70/2 to 91/2. Since Axar relies more on the angles and less on the spin, it gets easy for the batter to just line him up and slog the way out. This is what Iftikhar did. If India don’t get greater returns from Axar’s bowling, it makes sense to play Deepak Hooda, who is definitely a more capable batter.
India’s transformation from a team full of underwhelming fielders to a team full of the fittest, sharpest fielders was stunning but shortlived. They are now back to where they belonged. Other than Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya, there’s not a single player worth taking a punt on, as most of them revealed their buttery fingers. R Ashwin made a diving effort but couldn’t grab a catch of Shan Masood, while captain Rohit Sharma too dropped Iftikhar Ahmed’s attempt at the cover. Both of them went on to score half-centuries. Kohli too missed an easy run-out opportunity.
Arshdeep Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were almost unplayable in the Powerplay. When the conditions are favourable to swing and seam, negating them becomes a herculean task, as Pakistan’s openers would have realised. But their biggest challenge will be on a pitch where there’s nothing to aid them. India don’t have a fast bowler who can relentlessly bowl hard length at a high pace – an essential skillset to have in Australia.
Another major concern is how neither Arshdeep nor Bhuvneshwar seemed like reliable options in death overs. Arshdeep’s most expensive over was his last, where he conceded a six and a four against Shaheen Shah Afridi. In Jasprit Bumrah’s absence, the Indian bowling attack lacks a pacer to be relied upon in the business end of affairs.
KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma‘s early dismissals have become rather recurrent, putting the onus on the middle-order time and again. Losing both openers in quick succession makes even under-par totals look tricky, forget daunting targets.
If not for Hardik Pandya’s composed batting in the middle overs, India wouldn’t have dared to dream. He played a crucial knock, and a couple of boundaries, in the beginning, helped Kohli stick to his natural game too. But he seemed to struggle while running between the wickets. There’s no one in the team or even the entire country who can replace Hardik Pandya, and thus he should be managed judiciously. Pandya also struggled to attack against the hard length, which may be the source of more problems going forward in the tournament.