India completed a superb victory in what was a blockbuster T20 series.
They came from behind twice against the No. 1 T20 team in the world, trying out a range of combinations. There were a lot of questions to be asked of the 2021 T20 World Cup hosts, and a variety of answers came from it. Here are some takes from the Indian camp from this series.
Shreyas Iyer, the team man
The middle-order, specifically number four, has been one of the biggest talking points in white-ball cricket for India over the years. Shreyas Iyer appears to have the position locked down in ODIs but in T20s, there’s still some pressure.
Before the series, there were question marks over whether Iyer could be that aggressive stroke-maker in the middle. There was pressure building from T20 big hitters, with the likes of Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson being on the radar.
However, Iyer stood up this series with two crucial attacking knocks. In the first game, with the team reeling at 3/20, he produced a stand-out 67 (48) and in the fourth game, he played the seemingly uncharacteristic finisher role perfectly, with a 37 (18).
The Delhi Capitals skipper has proven that he can fit in wherever the team needs him, and it will certainly be a difficult decision to leave him out.
Pandya the bowler
Hardik Pandya is India’s best T20 hitter. His batting stock has risen very quickly in recent years, culminating with some extraordinary knocks in Australia last year. However, some eyebrows were raised when India opted to play him as the sole fifth bowler.
Don’t forget, Pandya had entered the Indian team in this role, but recent injuries and rustiness conveyed him as a potential weakness. Hardik put the doubts to rest, displaying good bowling skills with his handy off-cutters and short stuff in the middle overs.
He only picked up three wickets, but more importantly only went for 6.94 per over from his 17 overs. Virat Kohli even trusted him to bowl with the new ball.
Pandya’s bowling success is very crucial for the balance of this Indian T20 side and he could even be entrusted as the third fast bowler, with three spinners able to be played.
Swing king Kumar
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has almost become a forgotten man in Indian cricket. There was a point when he was India’s best all-format bowler not too long ago, but post-2019 World Cup, Kumar has been hampered with injuries.
With Jasprit Bumrah missing the series, and England having an explosive batting line-up, Kumar had to step up. He did so excellently, swinging the new ball and bowling pin-point yorkers at the death. He had the best economy of the series of 6.38, with his crucial third over sealing the fifth match and the series for India.
An in-form Kumar will do wonders for this Indian team, and his combination with Jasprit Bumrah will be a treat to watch. There are other players such as T Natarajan, Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Sanini, but Kumar back to his best is a class above.
Once the squad for this series was announced, there was some excitement around India. Suryakumar Yadav had finally got his deserved call-up. He has been so consistent for Mumbai Indians in the IPL for a few years and is the perfect model of player for that middle order of the T20 side.
Ishan Kishan, Pant’s U-19 World Cup teammate, also knocked the door down with a breakout IPL season last year. It was refreshing that India were willing to try out some raw T20 talent.
They both delivered superbly, with MOTM maiden 50s in their respective debut innings. Kishan can be the back-up opener for India ahead of Shikhar Dhawan, and SKY can be an aggressive option at number four (or three).
His ability to hit from ball one was especially on display in the fifth match. Another Indians player, Rahul Chahar, also got his chance this series. Yuzvendra Chahal is a quality T20 leg spinner, however, his recent stats are poor.
Chahar did okay, but he did show good glimpses at times against England, and he will know that a good IPL season could easily lead to a spot for him in the WC side.
The opening combination was fiddled around with a lot this series. Ahead of the first game, Kohli claimed Rohit-KL Rahul was the preferred combo, before playing KL with Shikhar Dhawan. Dhawan was then shifted out for Kishan, and then the original plan was used for games three and four.
Since 2018, KL Rahul has been in amazing T20 form, definitely India’s best batter. However, in the 2020 IPL, his game became much more conservative. He was the top run-scorer, but his strike rate was only 129, quite low compared to his 158 in 2018.
Couple this style of play with his recent T20I scores of 14, 0, 0, 1, 0, there is definitely some pressure on the keeper-batsman. In the final game of the series, Kohli decided to open with Rohit and this panned out perfectly.
Virat opening could be an option for India, allowing them to play the aggressive SKY at number 3. Clearly there are some questions marks about India’s top order combination, with future series, and of course the IPL, still pivotal in making the WC decisions.
Overall, there were many positives for India in this series.
Adding Jasprit Bumrah and Ravi Jadeja, they are certainly big favourites for the World Cup this year.
However, it still seems to be unclear what their best starting team is, with so many good players to fit in.