Team India completed a historic feat of a complete five-match whitewash against New Zealand in a series where many matches went down to the wire.
Team India dominated the series but the Kiwis were far from flattering. Image: BCCI
The Kiwis were simply found inept at the end of the contest, bottling away encounters from critical situations to their own disarray. The visitors march on towards the World T20 later this year, and with this series being one of the premier challenges for them ahead of the tournament in Australia, did the Indian team find the answers to the majority of their questions? We will ponder upon that answer here.
The main takeaways from the series:
1: The Shivam Dube experiment:
In a bid to accumulate more firepower in the middle order, Shivam Dube was played in the T20Is and his performances throw a fresh argument in front of the team management.
After notching merely 41 runs from five innings, almost four of which where he had opportunities to capitalize and pile up further runs, Dube would surely not be content with his outings. He was supposed to be an integral member of the middle order, and was allowed to play in a range of positions too but the demeanor of his dismissals indicated that there might be an issue regarding him being perfectly suitable to feature in international cricket for the time being. Dube did show encouraging signs in the T20I series against West Indies, but whether or not he continues to receive further opportunities remains to be seen.
2: Ravindra Jadeja is unmissable:
For a cricketer so brilliantly accomplished and so efficiently proven at every level, the flak that Ravindra Jadeja receives from Indian cricket fans is shambolic to say the least. Being doubted over his abilities in the T20I format over and again, Jadeja served a timely reminder regarding why he is India’s best all-rounder currently with an excellent bowling performance throughout the first three matches.
He delivered an important breakthrough in the first T20I when the going had gotten difficult. However, more laudably, he followed that with figures of 4-0-18-2 and 4-0-23-1 in the next two matches respectively. Playing in shorter grounds, off-spinners generally are taken to the cleaners but it was not the case with Jadeja who also scored 10 runs off five deliveries unbeaten when he came on to bat for the only time in this series towards the fag end of the third T20I. Undoubtedly, the 31-year-old continues to stay a focal point of India’s plans whilst approaching the upcoming World T20.
3: What does one make of the middle-order muddle?
The Indian middle-order needs to step up its game. Image: BCCI
The Indian middle order and the spots up for grab in it has been a topic of discussion for what now seems to be an eternity and debates are bound to continue after several doubts rose through the same in this series. Shreyas Iyer delivered a match-winning performance in the first T20I and played a valuable knock in the second one too, but thereon he was barely convincing and clawed his way towards a 31-ball 33 this time around. There have been questions raised about him dealing with qualitative pace bowling, and though Iyer has time and again come up with incredible knocks, this sort of weakness of him has been picked up by the mainstream audience and they will continue to trouble him with that unless the man comes up with a string of successful performances. Nevertheless, he has done about enough to hold on to his spot and rightly so. Manish Pandey’s fifty in the fourth T20I was a key prompting of the fact that Pandey has toiled it hard throughout the past many years in the domestic and then the ‘India A’ circuit and when given an opportunity, he surely possesses the talent required to draw India away from testing situations. Otherwise, to win a T20I from a tender situation of 88-6 in the first innings rakes of an excellent comeback and Pandey paved the way for the same.
With age and experience, Manish has gained an understanding of how to ride a delicate scenario and then pounce upon whatever opportunity arises. Such sort of an innate grasping of cricketing situations is an implacable element that any middle-order batsman must possess. However, does Pandey have the ability to clear boundaries at will during the ending stages of a game in large boundaries that will be prevalent in Australia? That remains to be seen, but he too can rest assured of a sizable run in the Indian playing XI. That brings us to the case of Rishabh Pant. From being hailed as the country’s first-choice wicketkeeper in all formats of the game in August to finding himself out of the position in his most preferred versions, that is the T20Is/ODIs, both the management and Pant have to share the blame for the same.
But will the think-tank really dare to continue without Rishabh Pant during the World T20, especially after the media and fan pressure that Pant is able to generate his sheer aura and talent every time he is dropped? This management has shown a tendency to succumb to the pressure created by external forces regarding selection issues, and it was apparent by how they lured Pant in the World Cup squad midway through the tournament in England last year. Will they follow that pattern this time around too? There are a lot of dilemmas to chew about.
Where do Team India go next?
India will play three-match ODI series against New Zealand starting from the fifth of February.