Indian cricket team is in the zone and everything they have touched in the last 12 matches has turned into gold. From Hardik Pandya to Jasprit Bumrah, the MS Dhoni-led unit has finally found players for situations, not positions.
India seems to have switched on cruise control from the Australia T20 series. The batsmen were consistent even during the 1-4 loss in the ODIs, but it was the role played by the bowlers which lifted this unit. The combination of Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah turned out to be ideal for MS Dhoni as the seamers gave the skipper what he was searching for the past year: early wickets.
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Dhoni tried various combinations from Bhuvneshwar to Umesh to even Ashiwn, but nothing clicked. India conceded runs and surrendered games after posting decent totals – refer the Australia ODIs. The wait, however, ended with Nehra’s return and inclusion of the skillful Bumrah.
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Bumrah is not a big mover of the ball, nowhere close to Bhuvneshwar of the old or Mohammed Shami at his peak. But what separates him from the rest are the angles he generates and ability to hit the block-hole more often than not.
With Bumrah, Dhoni gets enough penetration at the start and a tight over or two at the death. A controlled seamer bowling from the other end allows Nehra to go for wickets. The veteran, during his on-off stint with India, became the captain’s ‘favourite’ for his ability to pick wickets.
Nehra does leak a boundary here and there, but his early inroads puts the opposition on the mat early in the innings. And, even in the shorter format, wickets are gold, more so because they result in a dot ball.
In the last ten T20I matches he played, Nehra returned with 13 wickets at an economy of 7.61 and strike-rate of 15.6. Bumrah has done even better, picking 15 wickets in his 11 matches and conceding only 6.15 runs every over. If not lethal, India’s combination is turning out to be very effective so far.
With the seamers falling into place, Pandya’s inclusion gave this team much-needed balance. For India, it had always been spin, seam, batsmen and wicket-keeper. They tried Stuart Binny and failed, tried to convert Ashwin into one and failed again. Ravindra Jadeja did the job but not on a consistent basis.
After the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy – India’s domestic T20 competition – talks of Hardik Pandya, the all-rounder, gained ground. The Baroda right-hander rose to prominence during his IPL days with Mumbai Indians, but it was the run with Baroda in the domestic competitions which earned him a national call, ahead of his limited-overs state captain Irfan Pathan.
Pandya, as Dhoni has often said, comes as a full package, much like the West Indies players. He bats, he bowls and is a leopard on the field. Safe pair of hands and ability to cover ground with ease gives his game a third dimension, completing the package.
Pandya, unlike Stuart Binny, India’s previous all-rounder, is not military-medium. He hits the deck hard, can generate bounce and flirts with the 140 kmph mark. Yes, he could be held guilty for swaying with emotions and erring in line, but he would only learn with a calm skipper keeping a close eye from behind the stumps.
He scored only 62 runs in 11 matches, but they have come at a strike-rate of 147.61. And in those 11 matches he has scalped 10 wickets conceding only 7.11 runs per over. Plus, add the seven catches, including a couple of blinders. India’s wait for a seam-bowling all-rounder could finally be over.