In a jam-packed cricketing calendar, where every series bleeds into the next, to find meaning in each international game is tough. When it dawned that India and Australia were scheduled to start a five-match T20I series just four days after the World Cup final, the overarching feeling was of weariness.
But the past 10 days have proved that fatigue is a term that doesn’t exist in Indian cricket’s lexicon. A young and energetic side, led by the experienced Suryakumar Yadav, has not only sealed the series 3-1, but also provided enough cues to a bright future.
And these performances have only ended up whetting the fans’ appetite for more. As the caravan moves to the Garden City for the final match on Sunday, it is expected to reach a crescendo.
The likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma and Ravi Bishnoi have been central to this. Jaiswal’s belligerent hitting at the top, Ruturaj’s elegant classicism, Rinku’s unveiling of hitherto unknown dimensions to his batting, Jitesh’s finishing and Bishnoi’s top-draw bowling, especially in the PowerPlay, have enthralled the audience.
If there is a worry, it is the fast-bowling department, where more will be expected from Arshdeep Singh, Deepak Chahar, Mukesh Kumar and Avesh Khan.
For Australia, finishing its India sojourn on a high will be the target, and Travis Head may well be key to this. Of the party that won the World Cup, Head — player-of-the-match in the final — is the most high-profile player still remaining in India.
The M. Chinnaswamy Stadium is the ideal habitat for the kind of breakneck pace of batting Head revels in. A feast is in the offing, if the 29-year-old gets going.
The visitors, though, will need to play the Indian spinners better. In Raipur, on a surface that challenged the batters a bit, Bishnoi and player-of-the-match Axar Patel spun a web that the Aussies found tough to untangle. The pair conceded just 33 runs across eight overs and scalped four wickets. The batting-friendly conditions in Bengaluru should come as a respite for Matthew Wade and his men.
However, this being an inconsequential match in terms of deciding the series winner, there may be personnel changes, especially in the Indian camp which has 17 men to choose from as against 13 in the Australian roster. With India’s first T20I against South Africa in Durban just a week away, rotating a few players is not inconceivable.
Aficionados will also have an eye on the match-day weather. On Saturday, towards late afternoon and evening, overcast conditions could be seen in and around the stadium. There is a saying in these parts during the Northeast monsoon — when Tamil Nadu catches a cold, Karnataka sneezes. The hope and prayer for Sunday will be for a rain of runs and nothing else.
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