Aakash Sivasubramaniam
22 Sep 2022 | 12:35 PM

Bowling concerns surround India as they aim to level series

Mohali opened a floodgate of worries for the Indian management

Just minutes after Australia chased down a record chase against India in Mohali, there was a huge cry on social media. It is perhaps the first place for fans to be and the last place for players. The cry had a familiar tone to it, it had names that were on repeat with a bunch of cuss words surrounding it.

India lost a T20I in a three-match bilateral series against Australia. Imagine that kicking up a storm of social media absurdity. But such are the times we are living in that the job of being an Indian cricketer means facing abuse with or without good performances. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who was enjoying his best ever year in T20Is, with 31 wickets was on the receiving end of criticism.

On Australian side of things, there was profound happiness. Cameron Green, who was just playing his second T20I starred in a fashion none expected. Combine that with the prowess of Matthew Wade and the yet to unleash Tim David, the Australia fans rejoiced their morning after the clash.

The show now moves to Nagpur, a venue which last hosted an international fixture back in 2019. And India, after a lacklustre show in Mohali are eager to turn it around.

What’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar doing in the line-up?

There are few things beyond three bad overs in three defeats. We are talking about a 32-year-old pacer, who has picked up 31 wickets in the year and yet the cry is all about dropping him. Just a few months ago, the Meerut-born pacer was viewed as one of the best white-ball bowlers to have ever bowled for India. But just two weeks of cricketing action later, here he is viewed as a liability.

Much of it has to come down to Bhuvneshwar’s struggle at the death. Since the start of the Asia Cup, the right-arm seamer’s numbers at the death (10.8 RPO) has been a concern for India. But the calls to drop him from the setup for Deepak Chahar might be haphazard. Bhuvneshwar’s strength still lies in bowling with the new ball, dismantling the opposition early on.

In India’s last three T20I fixtures, Bhuvneshwar has figures of 0-63 at the death. Chahar’s numbers at the death are better but the sample size isn’t big enough to draw comparisons with Bhuvneshwar. India still need Bhuvneshwar at his full force, now more than ever.

Axar Patel aces when others fail

In the absence of Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel has perhaps become one of the vital cogs of this Indian setup. His selection ahead of Rishabh Pant as the lone lefthander in the playing XI shows how crucial he is to the balance of the side. Axar’s impact with the bat was minimal, probably not enough to gain eyeballs. But his approach was certainly something that would please the management.

Also Read: Axar Patel stands tall amid the Aussie carnage in Mohali

During his five-ball stay at the crease, the left-hander showed that he wasn’t afraid of attacking from ball one. He is perhaps someone that India could use in the middle-overs as a pinch-hitter against the legspin of Adam Zampa. While India did not need that in Mohali, but in Vidarbha, they could use his batting to the tilt.

On the bowling front, Axar aced on a night where most of the bowlers suffered. He ended with figures of 3-17, at an economy rate of 4.25, wherein the average economy rate in Mohali was close to 11.5. The 28-year-old is only making a stronger case for his regular inclusion in the T20 World Cup Down Under. His ability to use the non-spinning conditions to the fullest is something that India could benefit highly from.

India need to be wary of Australia’s killer approach

Australia, in the yesteryears have struggled to adapt themselves to the T20 pace, which shows in how they have fared at the global event. But since 2021, they have understood the need to play a high-intensity game that is sustainable in the shortest format. While Steve Smith is still in the playing XI, the Kangaroos have not been afraid to use him purely as batter for the calamity.

But in the absence of three top stars – David Warner, Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis – in stepped Green and Smith, who were actively on the rescue job during the home ODI series against New Zealand. Green, in his first professional match as an opener, headlined with a 30-ball 61, smashing eight boundaries and four sixes.

Smith, who tends to be a slow-starter too played a vital 24-ball 35. Despite their star Glenn Maxwell failing (1), Australia found an approach that was so damning to destroy the Indian bowling unit, it fetched a boundary every 3.4 deliveries.

On top of that, never in the innings did the run-rate dip below in an alarming fashion, which shows how far the T20 world champions have come to understanding the vitals of the format.

Team Combinations and Playing XI

Australia would be more than pleased with the way they fought in Mohali, so expect an unchanged playing XI.

Australia XI: Aaron Finch (c), Cameron Green, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Josh Inglis, Tim David, Matthew Wade (wk), Pat Cummins, Nathan Ellis, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood

On the other hand, Suryakumar Yadav confirmed in the pre-match press conference that Jasprit Bumrah is fit to take the field in the second T20I. In that case, Umesh Yadav is most likely to be benched. Can we see Rishabh Pant? That is another talking point from the playing XI in Mohali.

India XI: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Harshal Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal

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