Anirudh Suresh
28 Aug 2022 | 10:59 PM

Talking Points: The Jaddu experiment, Pakistan’s bat-first problem and more

We look at three key talking points from Sunday’s clash that saw India narrowly edge Pakistan in Dubai

India’s Jadeja experiment yields positive result

Up until the Pakistan encounter on Sunday, Rishabh Pant was considered indispensable in T20Is not because of his accomplishments but owing to his left-handedness and his ability to counter traditional negative spin match-ups for right-handers (leg-spin and left-arm orthodox). 

Jadeja is a left-hander too, but his unusually tame record against spinners, even positive match-ups, meant that playing Pant almost became a necessity, in order to break the monotony of right-handers. Jadeja, heading into Sunday's clash, had a SR of 79.26 against spinners since the start of 2020, the southpaw inexplicably striking at 95.7 and 78.5 against left-arm spin and leg-spin. 

So the moment news broke out that Pant was being omitted from India’s starting XI, there were fears that the RHB-heavy selection played right into the hands of Pakistan, who at their disposal had two spinners that turned the ball away from righties. The said fears, mind you, came from a very reasonable conclusion that Jadeja, evident from his numbers, would be incapable of neutralizing the Pakistan spinners.

But after what unfolded on Sunday, there is a good chance that Jadeja the batter versus spin might henceforth be perceived slightly differently, with a decent chunk of people willing to trust the 33-year-old more.

Sent in ahead of Suryakumar Yadav to neutralize Pakistan’s spin twins, the left-hander made heads turn by dancing down the wicket on just the second ball he faced of Nawaz, smacking the left-arm spinner for a humongous 98m six. It was a hit that, as much as anything, felt like a massive statement. 

The fourth ball Nawaz bowled to Jadeja went past him like a bullet, straight to the boundary rope, and overall, the southpaw finished with a SR of 185.7 versus the left-arm spinner, playing the match-up game to perfection. 

Jadeja was not able to inflict damage in the 6 balls he faced of Shadab but his Nawaz onslaught did the side a massive favor; it effectively forced the 28-year-old out of the attack and made Babar Azam hold his final over back till the very end, by which point it was too late. 

Jadeja as a floater is still very much a work in progress but the southpaw, across the 29 balls he faced, showed that he has it in him to adapt and perform the kind of role that is expected of a left-hander at No.4 in modern-day T20 cricket. 

Skipper Rohit, ahead of the game, said that the team ‘will keep trying to seek new answers.’ They might have just got one.

Pakistan’s batting-first approach needs a rejig

Undeniably, Pakistan were handicapped the moment they lost the toss. For Dubai, effectively, is a ‘win toss, win match’ venue (14 of the last 15 matches won by the team chasing). Equally, however, it would be dubious to pretend that everything’s alright with the way the Men in Green approach setting targets. 

Since the start of 2021, Pakistan have batted first 8 times against Australia, India, South Africa and England (Top 4 teams). 6 of those matches have resulted in defeats, with the side passing the 170-run mark all but twice. 

We all know where the problem partly lies. As good as Babar and Rizwan are as batters while chasing — where they can pace their innings in accordance with the asking rate — there are still question marks over their effectiveness batting first. In the aforementioned 8 matches, Babar and Rizwan batted 54.19% of all deliveries but registered a combined SR of just 132.50 (Rizwan 134.7, Babar 129.1). 

It is true that they’ve been getting little support from the middle-order — in the said matches, no one outside Fakhar Zaman averaged over 20 — but when, as top-order batters, you consume such a high proportion of deliveries batting first, strike rates hovering around the 130 mark simply will not suffice. It will, if anything, only impact the side negatively; Pakistan already learnt a harsh lesson in the semi-final against Australia last year.

Rizwan, on Sunday, had a forgettable day at the office and so an anomaly of an innings like that cannot be used to fault him, but notwithstanding what happened in the India clash, there is merit in the argument that Pakistan desperately need to rejig their tactics while batting first in T20 cricket.

Perhaps, for starters, they could look at separating Babar and Rizwan and deploying a more aggressive batter right up top (maybe even a promotion back to the top for Fakhar). Lack of runs from the middle-order is certainly a concern but the least that can be done is addressing the controllables.

Babar, time and again, has shown his penchant and willingness to learn and pick up things from the very best. Right now, he and Pakistan would benefit from taking a leaf out of India’s book by experimenting incessantly in order to find answers. 

Pakistan have enviable pace depth, but endurance needs to be monitored

For all the talk about how Pakistan might suffer due to inexperience in the pace department, it was the Men in Green’s young speedsters that kept them in the contest and made a match out of nothing. 

Naseem Shah on debut bowled a dream first spell in which he removed KL Rahul for a golden duck, and then immediately drew the outside edge of Virat Kohli that, to his dismay, was put down. In the same spell, he also beat the bat of both Kohli and Rohit several times, making the white kookaburra talk under lights, at one point making Pakistan forget about the absence of Shaheen Shah Afridi.

Naseem was complimented perfectly by young Shahnawaz Dahani who, despite going wicketless, gave the Indian batters a run for their money. He, too, like Naseem, was high on pace and beat the outside edge of the Indian batters on multiple occasions, making for many heart-stopping moments. 

That Pakistan were able to dominate the Indian batters this way in the absence of spearhead Shaheen speaks volumes of the strength in depth they currently have in the pace department. Naseem, Dahani and Haris Rauf played tonight, but it is worth remembering that they still have the impressive Mohammad Hasnain waiting on the bench. Mohammad Wasim Jr is currently on the sidelines but he, too, is someone with a similar skill set that, on his day, can breathe fire. 

That being said, on the back of Sunday’s showing, one thing that should concern the Pakistan management is their pacers’ endurance and fitness levels. Both Rauf and Naseem went down with cramps and the latter’s drop in fitness ultimately made things far easier for the Indian batters.  

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