Australia’s 4-wicket win was also another reminder that the Indian team need to work on a few areas of concern as they count down to the T20 World Cup later this year. Is there enough time, that’s the million dollar question.
The last edition in 2021 is one the Men in Blue wouldn’t want to hold any memories of, given that the side, one of the favorites to clinch the title, crashed out in the group stage itself, marking the first instance of the team not playing the semi-finals of an ICC event in 9 years.
If one were to take the first T20I between India and Australia on Tuesday as a case study of what needs improvement for Rohit Sharma and company, the one area that sticks out like a sore thumb is death bowling. .
Consider this: Australia needed 55 runs to win in the last 4 overs after the 16th over was kicked. The required run rate was 13.75. The Aussies at that time were going at a rate of 9.62. Now, although modern hitters back each other up to get runs like this in the final overs, it’s no easy task. The Men in Yellow though, and in particular Matthew Wade, made it look pretty easy. So much so that the game was pretty much over by the end of the 19th, at which point the tourists only needed 2 runs in the last 6 balls. And that’s what would have hurt Rohit and his side more than actually lost the game – the fact that it didn’t just come down to a humdinger, after India came back into the game on the back of a few quick wickets. Their bowling to death let them down and allowed the reigning T20 World Champions to gallop to victory, with 4 deliveries remaining.
1st T20I: Green, Wade guides Australia to defeat India
Let’s take a look at how the last four overs have gone in Mohali and what are Team India’s main areas of concern:
17th plus: Played by Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Points conceded: 15 (3 wide and 2 ovens)
Counters taken: 0
Equation before this one: 55 required out of 24
Equation after this on: 40 needed out of 18
The encouraging sight here was that Bhuvi was getting his lengths, but his line was off. Up to three widths at a time when India needed to turn the screws. Matthew Wade hit it for two fours in this over – the first hit past the ravine and the second behind the point. Both deliveries were pitched as potential yorkers but weren’t and Wade managed to open his bat face and find a boundary. Bhuvi’s thought process was all right – try for the yorkers, but the execution was called off.
18th over: Played by Harshal Patel
Points conceded: 22 (3 sixes)
Counters taken: 0
Equation before this one: 40 needed out of 18
Equation after this on: 18 required out of 12
The plus that completely turned the tide. No fewer than 22 runs scored, with Matthew Wade hitting 2 sixes and Tim David one on Harshal Patel. The surprising part here was that the previous one Harshal played on (16th) only lasted 6 points. He threw up to 3 point balls in this game and gave only one limit. Wade faced 5 of 6 balls in this round, but couldn’t break free as such. Harshal has tried a different variant here on almost every delivery.
But how 18th place went will be a real concern for India. Harshal is considered an undead specialist – someone who has multiple variants, who throws the slowest cutters well and into the field the slowest bouncers. In this course, however, his deliveries were mostly short or long balls. The third ball David hit for a 6 on the deep midwicket was hit into the slot to strike. No drummer worth their salt would have missed that. Harshal was coming back after a break and it’s never easy to hit his suspenders right away. However, what we saw was that Harshal was struggling in that crucial 18th, ironically with the varieties he could produce. In Australia, when he has to play on pitches that offer real bounce again, he will have to have varieties that can fool hitters. He has no raw pace so he will have to rely on trickery. He will have to work on that in the games to come. Hopefully he gets as close to the Australian pitches as possible to better hone his skills, especially as he will also have to play the role of a death specialist in Australia during the World Cup.
The second delivery of this over was returned directly to the bowler by Wade, but Harshal couldn’t hang on to it. This was considered an abandoned take, but to be fair to Harshal, these either stick or don’t stick. This one didn’t.
Things went all the way, but it was Australia who won the first #INDvAUS T20I. #TeamIndia will be looking hard… https://t.co/4WCyqedYwj
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1663694050000
19th plus: Played by Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Points conceded: 16 (3 fours, 1 wide and 1 leg bye)
Counters taken: 0
Equation before this one: 18 required out of 12
Equation after this on: 2 needed out of 6
At that point Matthew Wade knew exactly what he had to do and exactly what the Indian bowlers were going to do. Bhuvi’s plans haven’t really changed here. He kept looking for the Yorkers and when that didn’t work he moved on to shorter deliveries. Bhuvneshwar was never fast paced and he wasn’t going to bother Wade, who has played shots like this in the past and had now shown his ability to find gaps with alarming ease. The last three deliveries of the 19th were – a low, full throw outside the stump, then two short deliveries – all three were sent for the limits by Wade, who once again showed why he found a place in Australia’s squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup.
The big concern here is that it kind of becomes a trend. A pattern seems to be emerging. Bhuvneshwar has been one of India’s top bowlers in the recent past. But in the last three T20I games he played and won the 19th, he gave 19, 14 and 16 points (against Pak in Asian Cup, against SL in Asian Cup and against Aus during the first T20I in Mohali) respectively. This is perhaps the biggest concern for Rohit Sharma. Once Jasprit Bumrah is back in the mix (everyone will be crossing their fingers that he fully recovers soon), Rohit will see him as the first-choice option to launch 19, which in a close chase is always the most crucial. But Bhuvi will also have to play a big part in the dead and with no rhythm to fall back on, he will have to find more variation to ensure he can stay ahead of the batters.
20th plus: played by Yuzvendra Chahal
Points conceded: 4 (1 four)
Counters taken: 1
Equation before this one: 2 needed out of 6
The match was over and dusted by the time the final over played. Rohit’s options here were Hardik Pandya, Umesh Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal and he went with Chahal’s leg-spin. The first delivery actually produced a wicket, with Tim David falling for 18 after being caught by Hardik at long range. But the new man of pat cumminswho is absolutely no fool with the bat (just ask Rohit Sharma and the Mumbai Indians who he smashed a 15 ball 56 against and equaled the IPL fastest fifty record on 14 balls earlier this year) crushed Chahal for a winning limit match per point of coverage.
Overall, the Indian bowlers had a bad day at the office. The only standout bowler was Axar Patel, who had numbers of 3/17 in his 4 overs. All of the other 5 bowlers had a save rate of over 11.
Quality opposition will always show a team’s weaknesses. And the Australians have highlighted a big area of concern for Team India at the moment – bowling death.
“I don’t think we played well…(the) bowlers weren’t quite there” – Rohit Sharma’s statement after the game is hopefully a sign that team management Indian will be looking to get back to the drawing board, especially when it comes to their deadly bowling plans. Strategies change with conditions on offer, opposition etc, but given this was a 208 first innings score that couldn’t be defended, hopefully Team India will have plans B and C soon loans. There are 5 more T20Is ahead of the World Cup that the team will need to hone their bowling game to death.