India took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match Twenty20 series against the West Indies on Sunday, but the question is whether either win in Lauderhill, Florida, was convincing enough.
Virat Kohli’s men limped home by four wickets in the first match, while the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method came in handy in the second. This is not to say the opposition are weak and hopeless; as reigning two-time world champions, the Windies are no pushovers.
But ahead of the dead rubber in Providence, Guyana on Tuesday, there is room for improvement from the touring party’s perspective.
Kohli should bat at No 4
While the team management shows more openness to change the winning XI during the course of a series or tournament, there is a relative lack of flexibility when it comes to experimenting with the top order.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan will almost always open the innings, with captain Kohli walking out at No 3 – although it must be said Kohli has batted at No 4 on six occasions since the beginning of 2018, and with limited success.
This is not surprising because, aside from being the senior most players in the side, they are also its most prolific run-scorers. But with the middle order far from being a finished article, it might make sense to give one of the less experienced players a few trials at the top of the order.
This could help in three ways: take the opposition by surprise; give the team some flexibility; help them finish an innings more effectively with Kohli – going out at No 4 – possibly batting until the end; and give other batsmen a chance to make meaningful contributions.
Pant needs to get serious
Another reason for Kohli to slip down the order is Rishabh Pant’s poor returns with the bat.
In 16 T20 innings for India, the wicketkeeper-batsman has scored just 237 runs, including a fifty, at an anaemic average of 16.92. His strike-rate is an impressive 117.91, but he has only faced 201 deliveries in this format so far. For someone considered the No 4 batsman of the future, he should spending more time in the middle.
The problem with Pant is not so much the lack of runs as it is his manners of dismissals. He has thrown his wicket away far too many times – something that did not go unnoticed at the 2019 World Cup. He simply has to rein himself in, settle down and then go for his shots – even in a format as short as 20-over cricket.
Management has been patient with him, given the 21-year-old’s immense potential, but he needs to start living up to that potential and score some runs – if nothing else to answer the question “who after MS Dhoni?”.
Krunal cements place in side
He may forever be known as “the other Pandya” despite being the older blood brother of Hardik, but Krunal is quickly coming into his own as a T20 specialist.
Krunal is, like Hardik, an all-rounder but with two differences: he is a left-hander and bowls spin. After shining for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, Krunal has now established himself as the second all-rounder in the national team – after Hardik.
The 28-year-old has taken 14 wickets in 13 matches while batting at an average of 25.50 and strike-rate of 132.46. So long as he can continue to hit big sixes – like he did in the second T20 at Lauderhill – and bowl four steady overs, he will always be in the XI.
Footnote on Saini …
India have a long list of top-class fast bowlers choose. Yet, Navdeep Saini was exciting to watch in his debut series, as he took two wickets in the first game – mostly for his pace. It is obviously early days yet, but if the 26-year-old can keep it together, he could be the find of the season.