Unlike the one-day series, there was a sense of security when you look at the Indian squad for the T20s. The return of Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh adds experience to the side. This isn’t the format to experiment as the World T20 is just weeks away and having big match players who have performed remarkably in the recently concluded domestic T20 suggests there is more to it than just selecting names.
The three T20s would be a test for the aforementioned cricketers, three of whom played in the first match, which India won quite comfortably. First up it was Raina, who rushed into crease at the loss of both openers in a space of few deliveries. Virat Kohli was in fine touch all through the summer, the big question was to see how Raina played his game for India to post a huge total.
Raina looked like he was away from the playing squad, yet he ensured he didn’t get stuck as he smartly rotated the strike consistently allowing Kohli to face bulk of the bowling. The left-hander played 34 deliveries, was part of a partnership that faced close to 15 overs and contributed just 41 in a stand of 134 runs. By T20 standards, it was slow – however looking at the final target which India posted, Raina’s steady paced innings was pivotal, which gave Kohli the necessary freedom to showcase his repertoire (yet again in Adelaide) as he played a near perfect innings to remain unbeaten on ninety.
And those two mighty hits from Dhoni propelled India’s total to 188 – an above par score.
Australians chased down targets on all the three occasions they batted second in the recently concluded ODIs – and they looked good when they posted 89/1 at the end of the ninth over. The Indian spinners bowling in tandem, with hint of assistance from the pitch and Aussie batsmen lost the plot. More than poor batting, it was Indian bowlers who persisted the attack, made the opposition hit aerial shots ably supported by the fielders – reminiscence of how India under Dhoni always hunted down the opposition.
The key to that was India’s disciplined bowling and setting a huge target.
The victory at the Sydney ODI was how Dhoni envisions the batting in the shorter versions of the game. While chasing, Dhoni is a believer of going the distance, keeping a decent margin of runs and balls and then unleash the final onslaught – it is a template in itself for those who wish to improve as chasers.
Today, it was about setting a target. Team India was perplexed in recent times when it came to setting a first innings total. The manner in which they went about it today is something that the Indian team needs to replicate if they have to win the ultimate prize – the T20 World Cup to be played in India. Having an experienced batsman played the key. Raina took his time, didn’t opt for any fancy shots or turn to heroics, Raina was prepared to play a shadow on his comeback match and still scored more than run a ball. He gave the confidence and to an extent took the pressure off Kohli, who looked set to being the third Indian to score a international T20 hundred.
Records make up numbers and fill your CV while victories define you AND THE TEAM.
If India has rediscovered the touch of chasing huge totals, now they have a formula to setting large targets. One among the top three (if not two) should play a long innings and ideally remain till the end. Play out the middle overs with wickets intact and let the lower order explode in the last five overs. If India can set targets in excess of 180 consistently, then it’s half the job done.
MS Dhoni has stated at the start of the Australian tour, his final objective is to win the World T20 in front of his home crowd. His men will be playing only the shortest format leading up to the World Cup. The preparations have started on the right note, a home series against Sri Lanka and a T20 Asia Cup in Bangladesh ensures good amount of cricket practice to try out their batsmen, bowlers and most importantly their plans.
For now, there is a series to be won in Australia when the two teams meet next in Melbourne on Friday.