Indian T20 team: Basic structure in place

India still has three T20s against Sri Lanka and the Asia Cup to play before the World T20, but the KFC T20 Series has been a week well spent.

"The team is doing well," says captain Dhoni.   -  AP

Over the next few weeks, India will fine-tune its preparations for the World T20, confident that a basic structure is now in place. A weakened Australian squad or not, the 3-0 sweep of the KFC T20 Series shows that India and M. S. Dhoni more or less know what their best side is.

Such confidence is derived from the performance of the bowlers in the T20s after the disappointment of the ODI series. “I’m always worried about the bowling, especially when we go out of India, but now that we are playing only T20s for a consistent period of time, the bowling is looking settled,” Dhoni said. “I don’t have to worry about the bowling line-up. There might be one or two changes here or there: we might pick another spinner or maybe get a medium-fast bowler, but overall it has been a good set-up.”

The turnaround was partly because of personnel changes — Jasprit Bumrah for one — but also because of the change in format. “In this T20 format, they get that extra fielder outside,” Dhoni said. “And they know that the batsmen are looking to go after them so they can use variations right from the start. The ODI format is different because the batsman chooses when he wants to attack the bowler, what type of shot he is looking for.”

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this bowling display was the emergence of Bumrah. The young Gujarat bowler hit the 140kmph mark often, hurried Australia’s batsmen — a result of his action — and sent down excellent yorkers at the death. To Dhoni, this must have been a relief after the waywardness of his quicks in the one-dayers. “The find for me was Bumrah,” he said.

All this was underpinned by a remarkable batting effort, something India forgot to worry about. Virat Kohli scored a half-century in each of the three games — he now averages over 50 in T20Is — while Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan too were in top form. Australia’s bowlers may have been largely inexperienced, but it still takes enormous skill to bat in the manner Kohli and Rohit did.

“It feels really good because a lot of times I have been asked why the top order is not scoring runs,” Dhoni said, breaking into a smile. “I would turn up and say the same thing: they need a bit more time, they need a bit more games, none of them has batted in the same slots. But now they have come good. It’s just that we need to find people lower down the order who get the same exposure and get settled in the side.”

Part of that riddle has been solved with the arrival of Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Hardik Pandya. Raina is a fine T20 player and he demonstrated that again on Sunday. Yuvraj did not convince with the bat but it must not be forgotten that he was playing his first international game in nearly two years. And then there’s his bowling, which is more than handy. Of Pandya, Dhoni had this to say: “Hardik, as a package, is good. He is a very good fielder, and if he gives me the two overs I need, and the kind of batting he is known for — he looks like a good one to have as a third seamer.”

India still has three T20s against Sri Lanka and the Asia Cup to play before the World T20, but the KFC T20 Series has been a week well spent. “This series will help us — selectors, captains and coaches — in our decision-making in the future,” Dhoni felt. “There are some players who you think have something to offer, and [you wonder] whether it is worth persisting with them. This tour will give us clarity on such questions. We can now look at some bowlers and say we need to preserve them for the Tests, and look to groom some youngsters for limited overs cricket.”