Would you rather, as a side, after losing early wickets, trudge your way towards a barely-par score by playing it safe, or risk getting bowled out cheaply by ‘going for it’, eyeing a mammoth total?
Until very recently, India were a side who were content with doing the former. The approach had its pros. The biggest one arguably being the fact that you, as a team, were never out of the contest at the halfway point because, well, you posted a par-ish score that ‘could’ be defended through an outstanding bowling performance.
But in the last half-a-dozen T20Is or so, India have consciously moved away from this very approach, instead preferring to adopt the ‘boom or bust’ strategy.
Prior to the second T20I in St Kitts on Monday, the change had worked like magic. Almost instantly, they witnessed the upside of the said game-plan.
In Rajkot against South Africa, they went from 40/3 in the 7th over to 169/6 in 20. At the Rose Bowl against England, they finished with 198 despite having no 50-run stands. The same was the case at Edgbaston, where they ended with 170 despite losing half the side inside the 11th over and in the first T20I of this ongoing series, they amassed 190 even though they just had one recognized batter at the crease for the last four overs of their innings. Point being, India were willing to hit their way out of trouble and it worked. Like a charm.
But no method is foolproof and India, in the second T20I on Monday, witnessed the downside of the strategy first-hand. Barring Rohit Sharma — who got a snorter first up — each of the Top 5 batters perished taking ultra-aggressive options. And so the end result was that in pursuit of a ‘winning total’ (170 and beyond), the team ended up posting a score that was under-par.
That India nearly defended the target suggests that they might very well have ended up on the winning side had they adopted their older, more conservative approach. But skipper Rohit, post match, was clear about the fact that the team would not ditch the new strategy after just one loss, and almost tended to suggest that he’d much rather lose games using the new approach than win games deploying the old one.
“I will say it again and again, this is the approach we want with the bat. We won't panic. We won't change anything after one loss,” Rohit said, defending his side’s batting strategy to the hilt.
The coming games, then, starting with the third T20I at the same venue on Tuesday, will serve as a true test of team India’s loyalty to this new ‘hell for leather’ approach.
The words have been spoken but will it reflect in the team’s actions? Will India still stick to this approach if, say, they falter again on Wednesday and end up going behind in the series? And what did Rohit mean when he said, ‘there are certain things in the batting we need to look at’?
Guess we’ll be finding all this out soon enough.
Pant is showing glimpses, but it might not be enough
Yep, it’s out there. The Rahul Dravid-led management are DESPERATE to see Rishabh Pant make the starting XI for the T20 World Cup. They’re doing everything within their powers to give him the opportunity to make an unignorable case. After making him open against England, they’ve now gone to the extent of batting Suryakumar Yadav (who is a lock in the T20 XI, btw) out of position just so that Pant can get 5 full games at No.4 to finally crack the shortest format and make his case.
But much to their dismay, all they’re getting from Pant is only glimpses. Just as he did at Edgbaston last month (opening the innings on that occasion), Pant, in the second T20I, started his innings immaculately. He hit the ball sweet, his confidence was right up there and the chutzpah we’ve seen him demonstrate in Tests and ODIs was there. But a breakthrough innings wasn’t to be. After a pair of glorious hits, he mistimed one, ensuring that yet another promising knock got nipped in the bud.
Now, that Pant is showing glimpses of his T20 prowess (something he didn’t during the South Africa series) is encouraging but unfortunately, he does not have time on his side. As of this very moment, with DK now being a lock, Pant isn’t a guaranteed starter in the XI and so the three remaining games in this series might be all he has to make a convincing case for himself.
So far this series, Pant has done well to make the highlight reels. But he might not make the starting XI of the Asia Cup or the T20 WC should he not grab the headlines within the next 5 days.
The Odean Smith gamble is not paying off for WI
In a way, it is easy to understand why West Indies are super keen on Odean Smith in T20 cricket. He can bowl rockets, prove to be a point of difference with the ball — particularly at the death — and has the ability to change the course of matches with a bat in hand. On top of all this, he’s an outstanding fielder too. A dream package, really.
The problem is that, barring the fielding part, Smith has not delivered on any of the promises in T20I cricket so far.
He finished with 0/43 off 4 overs in the second T20I on Monday, taking his career economy rate to 10.94, the second-worst in T20I history among all bowlers to have bowled 35 or more overs. This year, in fact, in all T20s, Smith has leaked runs at an ER of 11.2 across 15 innings.
Such numbers with the ball can be tolerated if the player, on paper an all-rounder, is delivering with the bat but Smith averages 10.00 with the bat in T20Is. He fell for a duck in the first T20I and nearly made a total cock-up of the chase before Devon Thomas came up with the fireworks.
Obed McCoy’s spell of a lifetime helped the hosts seal victory on Monday but despite the result, there’s an inherent need to ponder on the feasibility of having Odean Smith in the XI, for the all-rounder’s presence, for the longest time, has unfortunately proven to be a net negative.
West Indies: Kyle Mayers, Brandon King, Nicholas Pooran (c), Rovman Powell, Shimron Hetmyer, Devon Thomas (wk), Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Odean Smith, Alzarri Joseph, Obed McCoy
India: Rohit Sharma (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh