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Series takeaways: Jaiswal & Rinku indispensable, WK spot undecided & more

Last updated on 14 Dec 2023 | 08:54 PM
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Series takeaways: Jaiswal & Rinku indispensable, WK spot undecided & more

A look at the key takeaways for India from the three-match series against South Africa that ended 1-1

Jaiswal & Rinku *should* be locks in the first XI 

Five months ago, back in July, both Yashasvi Jaiswal and Rinku Singh were just ‘IPL stars’ who were yet to make their T20 international debut for India. Fast forward to December, it’s impossible to now imagine a full-strength Indian T20I side without either batter in the starting XI.

Jaiswal and Rinku have both put up impressive overall numbers, but the clinching factor — which makes them indispensable — is the authority they have over their respective roles in the side.

Jaiswal is the designated ‘powerplay basher’ whose job is to go gung-ho from ball one and get the team off to a flyer. He’s embraced it in some style: 14 matches into his T20I career, the 21-year-old has a powerplay strike rate of 158.7. 

A duck in the second T20I could easily have prompted him to ‘play safe’ in the decider but unbothered by what went on in the previous match, Jaiswal stuck to his role in the third game and played it to perfection. It took only three balls for him to find the boundary; by the end of the second over, he was already batting on 15, with his strike rate reading 187.5.

On the other hand, Rinku, despite being a rookie, has taken the toughest role in the game (finishing) and made it look so easy, displaying the brains and nerves of a veteran. 

A dozen games into his T20I career, Rinku’s strike rate at the death reads 210. He’s faced 80 balls in the 16-20 phase and has smashed 168 runs, hitting a six every 6.67 balls.

Being a finisher is tricky, in the sense that sometimes you will have to rebuild for a sustained period before cutting loose. Rinku never found himself in such a situation prior to this series but, in Gqeberha, walking out to bat inside the powerplay under extreme pressure, the 26-year-old played nearly the perfect knock, masterfully constructing his innings before shifting gears.

There are still plenty of places up for grabs in India’s T20I XI but, going forward, there should be no question whatsoever about the spots of Jaiswal & Rinku. 

There might be players who might end up posting better overall numbers than these two, but Jaiswal & Rinku are indispensable due to how seamlessly they have managed to master roles that are very specialized. 

The wicket-keeper’s slot is still undecided

After only being picked for the last two T20Is against Australia, Jitesh Sharma (rather surprisingly) started both games against South Africa ahead of Ishan Kishan. But the hard-hitting 30-year-old was unable to leave a lasting impression in the limited opportunities he got. 

And so with the T20 World Cup just over five months away, the wicket-keeper’s slot in the starting XI is wide open. 

The Afghanistan series should probably tell us who the front-runner is. 

If Jitesh starts the series ahead of Kishan, it’ll be fair to assume that the management have made up their minds on the right-handed batter being the #1. However, Kishan starting that series will mean that Jitesh getting the nod in the South Africa T20Is was not really ‘that’ significant. 

This is one race that looks certain to go down to the wire. For all we know, even KL Rahul might still be in contention. 

As it stands, it looks like IPL 2024 will decide who will keep wickets for India come the T20WC in June.

Good luck choosing between Kuldeep and Bishnoi

Any team would much rather have a good selection headache than a bad selection headache.

As it stands, India are spoiled for choices in the spin department; it’s going to be an incredibly difficult decision to choose between Kuldeep Yadav and Ravi Bishnoi.

Last month, Bishnoi got a rare long run of five consecutive games and made full use of his opportunity, bamboozling the Aussies with his wrist-spin. In a series played on surfaces so flat that wickets were hard to come by, the 23-year-old took 9 wickets @ 18.22 (top wicket-taker in the series), and did so while maintaining an E.R of 8.20, predominantly bowling the ‘tough overs’.

From his end, Bishnoi couldn’t have done more to stake a claim in the starting XI.

READ: 'Ravi' Bishnoi shines as India's new wicket-taker

Kuldeep started the South Africa T20Is due to being the incumbent, and after a slightly rusty first outing, he showed the world why he’s special, taking a sensational five-fer in the decider to help India level the series. With that five-fer, Kuldeep took his average in T20Is (since the start of 2022) to 12.82. That while maintaining an E.R of 5.61.

Both Kuldeep and Bishnoi could have been fit into the starting XI had even one of them been a semi-decent batter but both being one-dimensional specialists means that India will have no option but to pick between the two.    

Kuldeep is the front-runner right now, but this race is far from over.

Along similar lines, Washington Sundar warming the bench for seven consecutive T20Is suggests that he is no longer in contention for the T20WC. 

Outside Bumrah, Siraj seems to be at the top of the pecking order

Heading into this series, Mohammed Siraj had not played a T20I in over a year in order to manage his workload in a 50-over World Cup year. However, it now seems abundantly clear that the 29-year-old will be in the starting XI as the second specialist seamer (behind Bumrah), should he be fit.

Last year, Siraj had lost his T20I spot to Arshdeep Singh, but how the two individuals were used across these two games spoke volumes about where each bowler stood in the pecking order. 

Not only was Siraj given the new ball in both matches, he was the seamer that Suryakumar turned to, at the death, when the Proteas were running away with the chase in the second T20I. 

Not too long ago, Arshdeep was India’s premier ‘death bowler’ outside Bumrah but that no longer seems to be the case. It’s a direct result of a downturn in fortunes for the left-armer, whose returns, particularly at the death, have been ordinary for a sustained period now.

READ: Gaikwad has arrived, but Arshdeep is threatening to fade away

Between this, being dropped for the fourth T20I against Australia in Raipur and being denied the new ball in the third T20I today in Johannesburg, the signs are ominous for Arshdeep.

The 24-year-old’s ‘left-arm’ variety gave him an edge over his compatriots last year, but the same looks unlikely to save him this time around. 

While it seems that he will get relegated to being the ‘third’ seamer once Bumrah returns, there’s now a genuine possibility that Mukesh, too, might just be ahead of him in the pecking order.

Meanwhile, like Sundar, Deepak Chahar currently seems to be a non-contender for the first XI. It will not be a surprise if Chahar does not make it to the squad for Afghanistan T20Is. 

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