Indian ODI team: a nice blend of youth and experience now

While younger players like Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya mean business in the lower-order, stalwarts like Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni bring a wealth of experience to slots 4 and 5.

Reuters

India's new-found heroes, Hardik Pandya (eith the team winner trophy) and Kedar Jadhav, the Man of the ODI series against England.   -  Reuters

Fourteen years ago, Sourav Ganguly, bare-chested, swung his jersey on the balcony of Lord’s after India successfully chased 326 in the NatWest series final. Eoin Morgan, last week, appeared crestfallen because England fell 15 runs short of chasing 382. A 300-plus score in 50-over cricket is not rare anymore, it is routine. The India-England ODI series mocked those who complain of an imbalance between the bat and the ball in the game.

All six innings in the series were 300-plus, they aggregated over 2000 runs. No other ODI series with three or fewer matches has seen these many runs.

The batsmen blitzed on the belters rolled out for them. But Kedar Jadhav shone the brightest. In Pune, he repaired a sinking innings with captain Kohli, and propelled India towards a three-wicket win, chasing 350. His 10-ball 22 proved crucial in the second ODI in Cuttack, where India won only by 15 runs despite scoring 381. He almost pulled off another heist in Kolkata in the third ODI. At five down for 173, with Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni back in the dressing room, the target of 322 seemed too far. But when Jadhav got out for 90 off the penultimate ball, India was only six away from a win.

Batting at six, he scored the most runs in the series. In the 15 ODIs he’s played so far, Jadhav has 468 runs at 58.5 with an exceptional strike-rate of over 121. It looks like India has finally found the finisher it’s been searching for ages. Mahendra Singh Dhoni can now finally play up the order like he did in this series.

Dhoni got out, trying a premeditated pull in Pune and nicking a delivery that bounced more than he expected in Kolkata. But in Cuttack, in the second match, the former captain caused mayhem with Yuvraj Singh. The duo, batting in an ODI after four years, put on a 256-run stand for the fourth wicket after India was 25 for three. They make the middle-order robust and lend experience to a young side.

Yuvraj seemed haunted by the short ball in the first ODI. But from the second, his feet were more assured, not tied up by shorter deliveries. On a bouncy track at Eden Gardens, Yuvraj, despite getting hit on the chest by a ball that shot up from the surface, was comfortable with handling bouncers.

Most bowlers in the series from both sides bore the brunt. Except Ravindra Jadeja. In a series that saw nearly seven runs scored per over, only Jadeja could manage a sub-six economy rate. Bowling most of his deliveries over 90 kmph between overs 10 and 40, he curbed the run flow. This allowed Ravichandran Ashwin to attack for wickets from the other end.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled better than his figures might suggest. In both the ODIs that he played, he bowled only in the first 10 overs and the last 10. In the first 10, he hit the deck and swung the new ball, trying to beat the batsmen. In the last 10, Bhuvneshwar mixed it up. His poorly attempted bouncers were oft-punished, but the wide yorkers and the deceptive, slower deliveries produced dots and also fetched wickets.

The series also saw Hardik Pandya’s rise as a fast-bowling all-rounder that India has always craved for. He bowled at 130-plus, hit good lines and lengths more often than not and picked up crucial wickets — he had Morgan’s scalp twice. With the bat, he finished the match in Pune with Jadhav and threatened to do so in Kolkata, too.

"Very pleased to see Kedar bat the way he did, very pleased to see Hardik perform with bat and ball,” said Virat Kohli after the series, “I think these guys have shown character and stuck it out whenever we've been under pressure. And that to me is the stand-out of this series as a captain.”

The series was India’s last in ODIs before it heads to England for the Champions Trophy. Despite a new skipper, multiple injuries and a young side, India looks set to defend the trophy in June.