India crashed to their worst ever Twenty20 international defeat in Wellington on Wednesday but in the larger scheme of things – read: the ODI World Cup — it really doesn’t matter.
The Indian team management used the opportunity to rest some of its key players, experiment with the line-up and give younger players a chance to earn their spurs. As things go, when one makes so many changes, there is always a risk involved and the result showed that it clearly didn’t go as planned.
But from an individual point of view, it was a chance for some of the players to put their best foot forward and remind the team management of their utility.
Here’s how some of them fared:
Bhuvneshwar under pressure
India’s go-to pace bowling pair in the shorter formats has been Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Bumrah gets the wickets and Bhuvneshwar keeps things extremely tight. But Mohammed Shami’s recent resurgence has been so impressive that many have wondered whether he might be a better option for ODIs. All that talk doesn’t mean much but it does put the onus back on Bhuvneshwar to respond with some solid performances of his own to make sure that the good work done over the last few years doesn’t go to waste.
Kumar isn’t the quickest bowler around and that means his margin of error is lesser than Bumrah or Shami. He didn’t get it right in the first T20I and was carted for runs all over the park in what eventually turned out to be his most expensive T20I spell (4-0-47-1).
Karthik needs to step up
Big total on board meant it was always going to be a tough chase. Given that India were playing eight batsmen, it was probably a good chance for at least one of them to come to the party. No one did.
Dinesh Karthik has established himself as one of the candidates for the finisher’s position in the Indian team but by no means is he certain of making it to the World Cup squad. He missed a golden opportunity to make an impression when he dropped two catches while fielding and then failed with the bat.
As a batsman, he has always had all the shots but he seems to go missing when the team needs him most. India need him to find consistency in a difficult spot. It is easier said than done but that is the requirement of the team.
Khaleel too raw?
The left-arm pacer is just 21 and despite clearly having a lot going his way, he is lacking the experience to make the most of his skills. Before the ODIs against Australia, the verdict on who would be the third seamer in the Indian XI was still open and Khaleel Ahmed was one of the options that India seemed to be considering. But Shami has stolen a march over him since then. Now, the question is whether he will be the fourth seamer in the squad.
In the first T20I, he was all over the place and ended up conceding 48 runs in his 4 overs. There is a spark of talent no doubt but the team management will keep a close eye on his performances in the IPL – mainly how he deals with aggressive batsmen. The youngster needs more match experience and how he does in the T20 tournament (apart from the chances he gets in India’s colours in New Zealand and against Australia) could potentially make or break his World Cup chances.
The Vijay Shankar experiment
The Indian team has seen something in Shankar. And that is a good thing. The team sorely needed some backup for Hardik Pandya and the Tamil Nadu allrounder just might be that man. In the past, Virat Kohli has spoken about how most of the best ODI teams in the world have two allrounders and Shankar might give India that second option too.
His bowling is not his strong suit but it was surprising to see Rohit Sharma not even give him one over. Surprising because Hardik, who bowled his full quota, was hammered for 51 runs in his 4 overs.
Then, Shankar was sent up the batting order at one-down, ahead of Rishabh Pant. He has shown himself to be a solid batsman and the team management is giving him the chances to show off his talent but this was perhaps a step too far. The right-hander ended up making 27 off 18 balls.
If Shankar does have a good IPL, he might just be on the plane to England where a seam-bowling allrounder could add significant strength to India’s balance.