India’s short tour of the United States ahead of their Caribbean sojourn came to a close under bleak circumstances on Sunday, with a dark cloud hanging over the stadium in Lauderhill, Florida and the players confined to indoors for the post-match presentation ceremony. In the end, it was a rather comfortable outing for the men in blue, who sealed the T20I series 2-0 and head to Guyana with an unassailable lead along with an opportunity to test their bench strength.
Here are the three key talking points for India’s 22-run win (by DLS) on Sunday:
Krunal Pandya’s impact
The player of the match award went to a man who batted 13 balls and bowled 21. That’s the importance of having an impact player like Krunal Pandya in the side.
His cameo with the bat provided a tight finish to a sagging Indian innings, as he hit two mighty sixes in the last over. The impressive aspect was that, it came after he arrested a mini-slide for his side when he walked out to bat. He did not go blindly after the bowling from ball one. And with the ball, he showed his street-smart cricketing brains by drying up the runs for the left-hander Nicholas Pooran and forcing a mistake, while attacking the right-handed Rovman Powell on his stumps.
“I guess that role I’ve been doing for my team in IPL as well,” Krunal said while accepting the player of the match award. “I’ve been playing domestic cricket and for India A. That’s my role and when you bat at No. 6 and 7 sometimes you click sometimes you don’t. But it’s important to be in a good frame of mind and work on your game. I was lucky to go there and hit two good shots. And I was happy with the way I bowled and it helps when you score some runs. You carry some confidence to your bowling, so it goes together.”
With every passing T20I appearance, Krunal is making his case as a regular for the Indian side. With the T20 World Cup next year, he is on track to making himself indispensable to the squad (if not the playing XI).
Rishabh Pant’s worries continue
As an Indian cricket fan, all one can do is heave a sigh and hope things work out in due course but for now, Rishabh Pant is not making it easy to be his supporter. If it was recklessness to hit out at the very first ball he faced on Saturday, it was a sort of lethargy on display on Sunday when he tamely guided a bouncer from Oshane Thomas down to the fielder at third man. The off-side angle of that dismissal in slow motion was quite remarkable, really. He had gotten into position to play the short ball early enough but just left his bat hang horizontally, with his eyes closed and not following the trajectory of the ball, while making no attempt to gain any elevation.
A man of unquestionable talent, the two differing circumstances of Pant’s dismissal should worry Kohli more than anything. In the first match, it was a low-pressure run-chase where Pant could have played the finisher role after the loss of early wickets. In the second match, he came out to bat with a platform set by the top order and the freedom to play to his strokes. He delivered on neither occasion.
All the pre-series talk was about how this was a chance to show why Pant is the future. But in the here and now, the Delhi dasher is struggling to convert his talent into measurable success.
Rohit Sharma’s love for six-hitting
A day after calling the pitch rather poor for T20 cricket, Virat Kohli, interestingly, opted to bat first the very next day on the same strip. His reasoning was sound, though: if anything, the pitch was going to get harder to bat on, so he wanted his batsmen to make the most of the freshness of the square and the hardness of the new ball.
And with Rohit Sharma in the form he is in, India managed to take the game away from West Indies in no time.
Fresh from his remarkable World Cup exploits, Rohit continued from where he left off on Saturday but this time making sure he converted his start into a sizeable score. His 67 off 51 balls was comfortably the best batting performance of this series so far and it showed the mini-break after the World Cup heartbreak has not affected the Mumbaikar’s rhythm.
That innings was also a chance to celebrate one of Rohit’s defining white-ball traits: the six-hitting.
Often criticised in the early part of his career for playing reckless shots, Rohit has come into his own in the past few years when it comes to clearing the boundary. And on Sunday, he went past Chris Gayle to become the most prolific six-hitter in the shortest format. Sure, he’s taken more innings than the self-proclaimed Universe Boss, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Rohit clears the fence with ridiculous regularity these days.
Most sixes in T20Is
Sample this: No batsman even comes close to Rohit in terms of the sixes hit across all formats in the last four years. The only other Indian to reach even the three-figure mark is Virat Kohli, with 102 sixes. That’s a difference of 141 sixes between the top two.
Most sixes hit in last 4 yrs across all formats
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“What people don’t understand is they know and recognize me as a cricketer because of those very shots. I wouldn’t have been scoring the kind of runs I did if I didn’t take those risks,” Rohit had said.
And he is not just living, but thriving by that sword.