Is T20 India’s forte?

In this place and at this time, there is no doubting what format of the game India is happier playing. If it had struggled to find the ideal XI throughout the one-day series, things somehow seemed to fall into place on Tuesday.

Ravichandran Ashwin is back into the scheme of things after being benched for three ODIs.   -  AP

In this place and at this time, there is no doubting what format of the game India is happier playing. If it had struggled to find the ideal XI throughout the one-day series, things somehow seemed to fall into place on Tuesday. In theory at least, the side put out for the first game of the KFC T20 Series strikes the right balance. It had that quality that appears so beloved of M.S. Dhoni — stability.

India started the one-dayers with two spinners and three quick bowlers. Two games in, one spinner had been jettisoned for a medium-pace-bowling all-rounder, and one batsman replaced with another who bowled spin. Dhoni never felt convinced and as the bowling continued to let the team down, despite changes in personnel, there was little it seemed could be done.

At the Adelaide Oval, India had at its disposal two batsmen who could bowl spin, a seam-bowling all-rounder, two spinners, and two quicks. Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina have been match-winners, while Hardik Pandya has had success in the IPL and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Where, then, will Ajinkya Rahane fit in when he recovers from injury?

“That will only increase the problem, but I think it’s a good problem to have,” Dhoni said after Tuesday’s win. “Because all-rounders are important. Even if Hardik doesn’t bowl four overs for me in every game, even if he bowls only two or three overs, I can still use the others. What I don’t want is the top five or six (to be made up entirely of) batters, including the ‘keeper, where you don’t have a bowling option.

“So if somebody goes for runs you don’t really know what to do at that point of time. And especially in this format, somebody or the other will go for runs, and that’s the time when you want your part-time all-rounders to come in and give you that one over, because that one over can really help.

“We’ll wait and watch; we’ll see how it goes because it’s important to have players like Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina who can bowl and bat. If you have too many one-dimensional players, especially in your top order, then it becomes very difficult if somebody has a bad day.”

Bowlers click

Of course, the success of any venture is judged on results and Dhoni could only speak glowingly of this team’s balance because his bowlers triumphed. Jasprit Bumrah was impressive yet again while the returning Ashish Nehra did not do himself any discredit. Both were on target with their yorkers, making for refreshing viewing.

“I know they’d lost quite a few wickets by the time the death overs came and they didn’t have proper batsmen batting, but I still felt Bumrah and Ashish Nehra executed their plans really well,” the captain said. “That’s one period where we have struggled consistently, so it’s good to see them bowl well.”

Then there was R. Ashwin, who after finding conditions unfavourable in Perth and Brisbane, was benched for the next three ODIs, getting back into the swing of things. Ravindra Jadeja and he are not bowlers that batsmen can take risks against, at least when there are boundaries this size.

“We have seen spinners being quite successful in this format, especially after the sixth over once the field opens up,” Dhoni said. “And over here with the bigger outfields, they can exploit that, unless the batsman is willing to play a few reverse-sweeps and all those shots or he’s very good at playing spin. Then he can put pressure on the spinners, but otherwise it becomes slightly difficult to consistently hit them for boundaries.”

Australia definitely found it hard, while India realised it may potentially have found the missing pieces ahead of the World T20.