International teams are using the bilateral T20Is to find players and balance for the T20I World Cup. In the process, India have built a juggernaut. Playing 10 T20Is this year, they have not lost a single game, out of which they won two Super Overs while one ended without a result. They defeated New Zealand in their backyard and now they have continued their domination in Australia, where they have not lost a T20I series.
The fact that the series victory has come without their best white-ball bowler, Jasprit Bumrah, taking the field is promising. Mohammed Shami did not pick a wicket in the only game he played, in Canberra.
On the flip side, these are worrying signs for Australia. Their batting, in the T20 format, has floundered time and time again since cricket’s resumption post the pandemic break. In their very first game - versus England in Southampton - they lost five wickets for 24 runs snatched a defeat from the jaws of a victory. Something similar happened in the first T20I, at Canberra. Chasing 162, they had a promising start - 53 for no loss in the Powerplay - but one wicket brought another and the struggle to keep the run-rate going in the middle-overs came to bite them.
While India have also not been too ahead with the bat in this phase, Australia’s inability to recover in the end is keeping them behind the visitors.
The difference, for India, is created by players like Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya. Yes, Australia have failed to find a spot to bowl to these two but at the same time, they don’t have a finisher of their calibre. Glenn Maxwell, their only batsman of the same mould, has only shown flashes of brilliance like 22 off 13 balls in the second T20I.
Australia also need to re-think D’Arcy Short’s role as an opener. The southpaw takes his time at the top but does not attack in the middle-phase either with only a par strike-rate against spinners. He inadvertently created pressure over Aaron Finch in the first T20I which led to his partner's dismissal.
With the ball, India have found T Natarajan to bank on while Shardul Thakur has emerged as an unlikely hero. For Australia, the dip in Mitchell Starc’s form was evident from the ODI series itself. He is now out of the series. Josh Hazlewood could not adjust his ODI form to fit the dynamics of T20s. The performance of the new crop, AJ Tye, Sean Abbott and Daniel Sams has not been inspiring. For some reason, Abbott bowled only two overs in the second T20I.
This is a dent to Australia’s preparation for the T20 World Cup as well. The only silver lining has been Adam Zampa who has not done much wrong. Bowling with a flatter trajectory, but still inviting the batsmen to go after him, he has missed on a wicket only once in eight T20Is this year. The other leg-spinner, Mitchell Swepson has also impressed as a wicket-taking option.
With the Test series coming close, Steve Smith might be rested having played all white-ball games as yet. Matthew Wade is set to keep his position as an opener. In case Finch is fit, which the coach Justin Langer said he should be, Short is expected to make way. The bowling attack can stay the same with the motive to keep the prime fast bowlers fresh for the Test series.
Aaron Finch/D’Arcy Short, Matthew Wade, Alex Carey, Moises Henriques, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Sean Abbott, Daniel Sams, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Swepson, AJ Tye
India is expected to field the same XI owing to extended rest for prime pacers and a major part of the batting contingent flying back home after the series.
KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson, Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, T Natarajan, Yuzvendra Chahal,