Having taken a 1-0 series lead, India may be tempted to test its bench strength by picking Umran Malik and Sanju Samson in the third and final T20 against New Zealand here on Tuesday.
India was expected to try out a bunch of players after another World Cup debacle but if the team combination for the second T20 was any indication, the team seemed reluctant to start with a clean slate. If not for the individual brilliance of Suryakumar Yadav, India would have struggled to post 160 on Sunday and it would have been a grim reminder of its travails in the World Cup Down Under.
Slow in the Powerplay
India’s Powerplay approach has been a major concern. Rishabh Pant was tried at the top with Ishan Kishan in the second game but the move did not work. Considering Pant’s class, one can expect him to fire in the series decider. Samson is another batter who can make an instant impact but the team did not start with him.
Going by Hardik Pandya’s post-match comments, the management is unlikely to make too many changes for the third T20. India leads the series 1-0 with the series opener washed out. “I don’t know (about changes for the next game). I’d like to give everyone in the squad a chance but it’s just one more game, so it’s a bit tough,” said Hardik, who is seen as the next full captain in the shortest format.
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Shubman Gill was in the running, too, for opening the batting for India in the absence of senior players, but the team went ahead with two left-handers. Gill is likely to get his chances only in the ODI series to follow. Pandya is keen on having more batters who can bowl in the playing eleven and Deepak Hooda has given him one option.
Malik continues to warm the bench
However, the biggest disappointment was the non-inclusion of Malik in the first game. It has been proved that there is a pressing need for an out-and-out pace bowler in T20 cricket and the New Zealand series is crucial to the development of the tearaway pacer.
In Jasprit Bumrah’s absence, Malik, who played three T20s earlier this year, should be exposed to the pressure of playing a top team and given a long run. Playing his first game in a while, Yuzvendra Chahal showed why he should feature regularly in the team, but fellow wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav might only get to play the ODIs.
Facing a must-win scenario, New Zealand will take the field without its skipper Kane Williamson, who will miss the game due to a pre-arranged medical appointment. In his absence, the team will rely even more on opener Finn Allen and Glenn Phillips down the order to put the opposition under pressure.
The home bowlers leaked way too many runs in the death overs and they will be looking to correct that. New Zealand will also have to find a way to stop Surya, who is in the form of his life. “Suryakumar played an incredible innings out there. Everyone watched in amazement, some of the shots being played. We have had a few discussions already and we will have a few more tomorrow before the game around how to combat him,” said New Zealand head coach Gary Stead.