By B Shrikant
Hyderabad, Sep 24 (IANS): An eight-over-a-side is too short a game to analyze and gain anything from. The action takes place too fast and the teams go into it with only one plan -- to score as many runs as possible or restrict the opposition within the target.
However, India can still take some positives from Friday's 8-over slugfest against Australia at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium in Nagpur.
Top-most on that list would be the impactful and scintillating innings by skipper Rohit Sharma that set India on course to victory. Then there was the bowling of spinner Axar Patel, the left-arm spinner allrounder who came in as a like-for-like substitute for Ravindra Jadeja, who is out with an injury, who claimed 2-13 from his two overs.
Skipper Rohit Sharma has been batting well at the top of the order, he has not been domineering and at his authoritative best in the last few matches. On Friday, he played an impactful inning, hitting the ball cleanly and to a big distance, attacking the Australian bowlers from the start.
"Rohit played a brilliant inning, on such a pitch and in those conditions. Facing the new ball on that wicket against world-class bowlers and playing such powerful shots is not easy. This proves why Rohit Sharma is such a big player. Not only in Indian cricket but also in world cricket, his ability to play fast bowling is second to non in this world and that's what makes him such a special batsman," said Dinesh Karthik in the post-match press conference.
While Rohit Sharma and Karthik took the limelight for the way they batted, Bumrah got his first wicket on return from injury.
The pacer Jasprit Bumrah bowled his first two overs on return from injury and thus provided some solace to the team management that was under pressure after the Indian bowlers, with the exception of Axar Patel, were taken tot the cleaners in the opening T20I of the three-match series at Mohali on Tuesday.
With India set to play three more T20Is against South Africa before the T20 World Cup in Australia, getting Bumrah back in action is a big relief for the team as the pacers will play a crucial role in conditions Down Under. Bumrah is currently India's best pacer bowler by a yard and with Mohammed Shami out with Covid-19 and Bhuvneshwar Kumar struggling to maintain his position as the team's death overs bowler, Bumrah's return is manna from heaven for India.
Bumrah at his best can operate both at the start and at the end of the innings and could also be used to break a dangerous partnership. Though he was declared fit and included in the squad, there were some concerns after the team management decided to bench him in the first T20I at Mohali.
He bowled two overs for 1-23 in Nagpur and if manages to bowl his full quota in the third and final match of the series on Sunday, the team management will breathe a lot easier when it comes to the T20 World Cup squad.
While Bumrah was returning to the squad, Axar Patel was simply superb in the first two matches against Australia. In Mohali, he bowled his quota of four overs for 17 runs, claiming three wickets, brilliant figures for any bowler in any form of cricket and especially in T20. The left-arm spinner was incisive, bowled with superb control and varied his length and pace to keep the batters under check.
In Nagpur, he claimed the wickets of the dangerous Glenn Maxwell and Tim David to peg back the Australian innings, which resulted in them failing to reach the 100-run mark. Patel ended with figures of 2-0-13-2 and helped the Indian bowlers assert themselves.
With the series now locked 1-1, Sunday's third match of the series has turned into a winner-take-all decider and the Indian team management and fans will be hoping that Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Axar Patel will continue in the same vein in Hyderabad and beyond. If they continue to do that, things will be a bit easy for India at next month's T20 World Cup in Australia.