Avesh Khan vindicates backing with match-winning show vs West Indies
The fast bowler struggled in the second T20 international at St Kitts, but was on the money in India's victory at Lauderhill in the fourth tie for an unassailable 3-1 series lead
Avesh Khan was vulnerable after India’s third Twenty20 game against West Indies. Even though India won, his position in the side had become shaky after going for 47 runs in three overs, which came after conceding 31 runs in 2.2 overs in the second T20 game of the series. He could have easily been side-tracked. But the India team management understands how dropping a young player in such a situation can hit his confidence.
Settling down at international level is a different challenge altogether. A lot of players have talent but few are able to establish themselves. Being backed when you don’t get instant success makes a difference.
Though captain Rohit Sharma’s move to give Khan the last over in the second game played at St Kitts backfired as the bowler was unable to defend 10 runs, gifting a six the first ball after bowling a no-ball and conceding a four the next ball, he persisted with the 25-year-old pacer. “I don't think we need to… or those guys need to panic about stuff. They have the skills, they have the talent; it's just about backing it and giving them the right opportunity," Sharma said after that defeat and an encouraging pat on the back for the bowler.
And the team management is seeing the results of showing faith. The change of venue also helped. At Florida’s Lauderhill, Avesh was a transformed bowler with two early wickets in Saturday’s game. Sharing the new ball, he struck with his fourth ball, prizing out the in-form opener Brandon King. In his next over, he sent back Devon Thomas to reduce West Indies to 22 for two.
With the Madhya Pradesh player's confidence restored, India have ensured they have a solid attacking option. He was Player-of-the-Match for his performance of 4-0-17-2, helping India best West Indies by 59 runs in the fourth T20I and take an unassailable 3-1 lead with a match to spare.
“We do understand Avesh's talent. Anyone can have one or two bad games... (it’s important to) give players enough game time. He used his height and variations really well,” said Sharma.
Khan said: “Feel really good, since I didn't do well in the last two matches. I bowled hard lengths. I just talked to my coaches and captains. They said, "we are backing you". But there is one match to go and I am focussing on that. The ball was stopping a bit, so I was mixing my slower balls with the hard length.”
Khan’s T20 skills have been seen in back-to-back IPL seasons. He finished with 24 wickets in the 2021 season for Delhi Capitals and took 18 last season for Lucknow Super Giants. Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid know it’s a question of working on his temperament to help him adjust to international cricket.
What made the victory sweet for India is that the team ticked most of the boxes.
Chasing a total of 192, West Indies were skittled out for 132 in 19.1 overs. Arshdeep Singh was again outstanding with 3/12, supported by left-arm spinner Axar Patel (2/48) and Ravi Bishnoi (2/27).
Highlighting the value of the regular breakthroughs provided by his bowlers, Sharma said: “With the kind of line-up West Indies have, no score is safe... You know what happens when you keep taking wickets.”
Patel and Bishnoi, along with Sanju Samson, were the three changes made by India for the game and they didn’t disappoint, to keep themselves in the fray as strong back-up options.
Opting to bat, India posted 191/5 with Samson contributing 30* (23 balls), after Rishabh Pant (44 off 31 balls) and Rohit Sharma (33) had provided impetus to the innings. Axar Patel hit a quickfire 20 off eight balls as India finished their innings on a high. He ensured India topped 190 with impressive hitting in the last two overs, hammering two sixes before finishing with a four on the last ball of the innings.
The find of the series has been left-arm pacer Arshdeep. The Punjab bowler has added another dimension to the attack. If Khan provides an attacking option, Arshdeep has shown his ability to bowl the pressure overs. It gives India a back-up for Jasprit Bumrah, who can handle the last over of powerplay and the death overs with variations, apart from delivering accurate, reversing yorkers. He had a dream outing with figures of 3.1-0-12-3.
In the second T20 game where India mustered just 138 runs, the left-arm seamer was the one who helped drag the game to the last over. He had conceded just 10 runs off the 17th and 19th overs.