India completed a hard-fought T20 series win over Australia in Hyderabad on Sunday but continued to be plagued by poor bowling at the death – an issue that started during the Asia Cup in the UAE and continued at home.
Suryakumar Yadav and Virat Kohli struck half centuries as India beat world champions Australia by six wickets in the third and final T20 for a 2-1 series triumph.
India had lost openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul cheaply in the powerplay, but Yadav and Kohli put on a century stand as they chased their target of 187, and Hardik Pandya hit the winning runs with a ball to spare.
But the Indians' bowling remains a concern. The returning Jasprit Bumrah was smashed for 50 runs in his four overs, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1-39 from three overs) had another off day with the ball.
The experienced Kumar has been particularly expensive of late. He conceded 21 runs in the 18th over in the series-decider on Sunday, with Tim David hitting him for two sixes and a four.
Before that in the Asia Cup, Kumar gave away 19 runs in the penultimate over defending 182 against Pakistan in a must-win match. He leaked 14 runs in the 19th over against Sri Lanka the next game. Against Australia in the first T20, he was blasted for 15 and 16 runs in his last two overs at the death as the Aussies chased down 209.
The other seamer in the side who is seen as a death overs specialist – Harshal Patel – has also been expensive on his return from injury.
At the previous T20 World Cup in the UAE, India's timid approach to batting was blamed for their unceremonious exit from the tournament. While they have fixed that, thanks to attacking batting from Rohit, Suryakumar Yadav and Pandya, their bowling has fallen off a cliff.
While captain Rohit acknowledges bowling in the death overs is a problem, he backed Kumar and Patel to regain their touch ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia next month.
“We know that he's had more good days than bad days in the last so many years,” Rohit said of Kumar.
“Of late it's been not the kind of performance that he would want, but that can happen to any of the bowlers. I don't think he's short on confidence. You can have bad games but what is really important is how you come back from those bad games.
“We want him to come back as quickly as possible.”
The captain was equally patient with Harshal who is returning from a rib injury. The 31-year-old bowled a combined eight overs, bleeding 99 runs for a single wicket in the series against Australia.
“He missed cricket for close to two months. Whenever a bowler goes through that injury phase and makes a comeback, it's not easy,” Rohit added.
“We have not judged him by how he has performed in these three games because we know his quality, what he can do with the ball. He has bowled some really tough overs in the past.
“You want players to keep improving and we can see that happening. I'm pretty sure he is not too far from his best.”
Meanwhile, Australia head coach Andrew McDonald said he has enough quality at his disposal to deal with any injury issues ahead of their Twenty20 World Cup title defence.
Australia lost the T20 series in India in the absence of all-rounders Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis, who were injured, while pacer Mitchell Starc was also not fully fit.
The World Cup starts on October 16 with the qualifiers while the main leg begins on October 22.
“We've got a couple of injuries, which are concerning leading into a World Cup”, he said.
“You don't like to see some of your mainstay players out of the team leading in, but we feel as though we've got some options in depth.
“If anything were to happen with anyone in the 15 I think it's obvious that we've got some good depth there.”