When India chased down 320 runs in just 36.3 overs against Sri Lanka in Hobart, an unprecedented feat had been achieved. Virat Kohli, the star of the match, later revealed that this had been made possible by breaking down the chase into two T20 matches.
Scoring 160 in 20 overs had
been par for the course and hence the pressure never got to the team. That was remarkable thinking and reason enough for the experts to hail the shortest format, which had provided another dimension to 50-over cricket, and to the India cricketers. The India batsmen, having played a crucial role in the world's biggest T20 tournament - the IPL, have now begun to treat chasing 10-an-over with irreverence. That's one of the biggest gifts of the IPL to Indian cricket, the nerve to take on any challenge. But that's only half the story.
While our batsmen have learnt a few new tricks to stay ahead of the game, the same can't be said about our bowlers. In fact, even the settled India bowlers have lost a bit of sheen over the last seven weeks. And that should be a cause of concern for the selectors, for the World T20 isn't too far away.
Let's figure out the new ball options available to the India team. Zaheer Khan is most likely to spearhead the bowling attack but the economy of 7.55 over 15 games is a true reflection of how much he enjoys bowling in this format.
While he's a different bowler in the remaining two formats, he's never been India's best in the T20 format.
The other option with the new ball could be Irfan Pathan, but eight wickets in 17 games isn't exactly the strike option Dhoni would like to have operating with the new ball.
Then, there's the newest million-dollar baby. Vinay Kumar, who's been amongst the wickets, 18 to be precise, but his economy (8.59) is beyond acceptable levels.
Praveen Kumar too has looked half the bowler he was post the elbow injury and almost always finished his quota by the seventh over. Not something you'd want from your main bowler. The only bright spot has been Umesh Yadav's relentless aggression, but even he's struggled to stem the flow of runs in the death overs.
From the current lot, barring Zaheer, there isn't a single one who can be entrusted with the job of bowling from the 16th-20th over.
The spinners haven't spun their web either. Ashwin has been the best India spinner with regards to his economy rate, but the fact that wickets have deserted him puts pressure on the captain.
Jadeja, Harbhajan, Ojha, Chawla and Mishra have barely managed to play a supporting role, while the foreigners in their respective teams have had to take care of both breaking partnerships and bowling in the slog overs too. While it is believed that the best fast bowlers are overseas players, it should bother the selectors that even the best spinner in the league isn't an Indian.
(Writer is contracted to RR.)
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