Ahead of the series, if you had asked the Indian management on what their realistic expectations of the series were, they would have hoped for a win. But somewhere in between, they would have also given you a checklist of things that they would have hoped for but not a lot of that matched the list.
In fact, there were some that came out of it, there were some that now give them more headache than it should have in the first place. Most of it boils down to the decisions that they have taken during the course of the series, more often than not, down to the captaincy from Hardik Pandya, wherein he has made some bold calls.
“Not to be honest, I always play the game like this. I try to read what is required, not have preconceived ideas,” it is only fitting that Hardik had uttered those words at the post-match presentation.
Gill’s stocks go up, Kishan’s crashes down
In between Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan, there is an experience of a total 33 matches. If you had glanced today (February 1)’s match, you would naturally gravitate towards Gill being the senior batter but that’s where you are wrong. Kishan has played 27 T20Is, and in contrast, the right-handed Gill has played only six.
But if the third T20I was a measure of both their talents, then it is clear that Gill’s stocks are at an all-time high. Every bit of today’s innings had the magical element from the right-hander. What’s more astonishing was the way he approached his innings, and the way he took down the bowling unit nonchalantly.
Right from the word go, Gill attacked the bowlers, with his 50 coming off 35 balls, where he hit seven boundaries. But post getting to fifty, the right-hander tore into the bowling attack, with his next 50 coming off just 19 balls, smashing two fours and five sixes. In the 19 deliveries that he faced at the death, his numbers read 59 runs in 19 balls, striking at a god-rate of 310.53.
And then there was Kishan. His talent is well known but so are his shortcomings. In just the powerplay phase, the left-hander has faced 28 deliveries but only has scored two fours, and 16 runs. Half of his runs have come in boundaries and essentially, he has not rotated strike effectively. Even in the middle-overs, eight runs off 12 balls isn’t quite pleasing. After playing 27 T20Is, the management might be tempted to look elsewhere.
Umm, did India learn anything?
Wasn’t India’s main motive in the series to learn about the squad. To learn about their bowlers? If that was indeed the motive, they might have failed. Failed terribly as well. Think about it, whether it was bowling just two overs of Yuzvendra Chahal in the second T20I, or bowling just the one over of Umran Malik in the first, Hardik’s captaincy at most points in the series was vividly puzzling. You could even call it astonishing but in a negative manner.
"I have got a very simple rule about my life and captaincy: if I go down, I will go down on my decisions. So at the end of the day, I take calls on my own because I like to take the ownership," is what Hardik had to say about that.
Even today, Hardik might have ended the innings with four wickets against his name but to introduce Shivam Mavi into the attack in the ninth over was quite a shocking move. Think about this, Mavi has bowled 56 overs in the powerplay, the most he has bowled in any phase. And then he gets none in the second and third T20I during that phase. It doesn’t end there. Both in the second and third T20I, Hardik reintroduced himself into the attack at the death. But was there a need for it? Nope, isn’t that where the other bowlers need to be tested?
If anything, in the third, India might have been happy with the fact that Arshdeep Singh's first spell was a banger, where he picked up two crucial wickets but barring that? Nah!
Washington, an interesting prospect
While it was puzzling to see what Hardik had done with the other bowlers, it was equally amazing to see how Hardik had used Washington Sundar in the first two games. The off-spinner was mightily effective with the new ball in both the games. Not just that, during India’s lose in the first T20I, it was the left-hander’s knock which turned out to be a near match-winner.
In that clash, coming ahead of Deepak Hooda, the left-hander smashed a 50 off just 28 deliveries, where he nearly threatened to take the game away from the BlackCaps. In the four overs that Washington bowled during the powerplay, he conceded runs at an economy rate of just 5.3, and more so, picked up three crucial wickets.
The T20 World Cup might be a year away but the way the all-rounder has shown his worth, time and again, India might have to find a place to force-fit him into the setup. There is no real other way that the left-hander would get to feature for the national team.
Let’s talk about Rahul Tripathi
Rahul Tripathi is someone who once he takes off, takes off for good. In the third T20I, the crowd at the Narendra Modi Stadium knew what it is like when the right-hander takes off. Right from the word go, his intent was clear: go after the bowlers. Perhaps, defending isn’t part of Tripathi’s cricketing dictionary after all.
What was really interesting though was how he approached his innings, which allowed Gill some freedom at the non-striker’s end. In an interesting pattern, including the pitches that had no runs on it, Tripathi struck at 104.88 in the powerplay before planting his front-foot to increase the strike-rate to 200 and eventually end up with one that read 300. It is almost very easy to forget the impact that the right-hander had on the fixture.
But during his stay, Tripathi scored 44 runs off just 22 balls, with four boundaries and three sixes with a strike-rate of 200. It is not that 44 which matters but how quickly that 44 dampened New Zealand’s spirits. It is often knocks like these that can accelerate a team to a great total. If India scored 234, a lot of credits should go to Tripathi for the impetus.