India’s fluctuating Twenty20 fortunes jumped upwards recently against the visiting Australians. Sunday’s triumph at Hyderabad helped Rohit Sharma’s men stage a come-from-behind 2-1 series victory. A pleasant outcome especially when juxtaposed with the grim backdrop that greeted the team in this particular series. Having failed to qualify for the Asia Cup final prior to hosting Australia, Rohit Sharma’s men had many issues to address. To queer the pitch further, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja was ruled out with an injury and resultant knee surgery. In a year that will soon witness the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia, every stumble in cricket’s shortest format, both at the individual and team level, leads to the sharpening of knives besides triggering conspiracy theories. This being the 15th anniversary of M.S. Dhoni and company winning the inaugural ICC World T20, that glittering achievement and the subsequent title drought has only added to the pressure upon the Men in Blue. From that winning 2007 squad, only skipper Rohit and Dinesh Karthik are still part of the current squad, a testimony to their longevity besides being a pointer to the transitions that India underwent in its team composition over the last decade. And when India lost the opening T20 of the three-match series against Aaron Finch’s men at Mohali, the worry lines stretched.
India’s bowling, especially its fast bowlers, struggled; but the runs that Hardik Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav hustled offered some optimism as the caravan moved to Nagpur while dark clouds gathered. Eventually when the weather took a turn for the better, an eight-over-a-side contest was staged and in this micro-combat, India drew level. Rohit atop the batting tree and finisher Karthik, joined forces to get past a nervy chase. In an allegedly young man’s game, it was the old guard that prevailed. And in the climax at Hyderabad, India reiterated its home credentials, humbling the Aussies while controlling the chase. Virat Kohli’s form, Yadav’s chutzpah and left-arm spinner Axar Patel’s consistency all combined well to yield a fine win. If Jadeja was missed, Jasprit Bumrah’s comeback was keenly watched. Even if the spearhead was not at his incisive best, he can only improve in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup. Catches being dropped is another blemish that India could well avoid as it chases glory. Just as Finch’s men departed, South Africa arrived for a set of three T20s and three ODIs. The limited overs’ preparation continues, as next year’s ODI World Cup in India is another prize that the team will be under pressure to win.