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Ahead of T20 World Cup, finishers Rohit, Iyer put Team India on strong footing

Makarand Waingankar

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Rohit sharma
Rohit Sharma has become the fourth Indian opener to complete 10,000 runs. Photos: @ICC

Mumbai: Team India’s young players like Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey and KL Rahul have not only exhibited a refreshingly fearless attitude but have also grasped the art of pacing their innings.

Usually batsmen need to pace their innings in longer formats, where they need to grind for long period just to stay at the wicket.

But in T20s, the role of ‘finishers’ assume paramount significance. These ‘finishers’ don’t have the luxury of time on their hands or pacing their innings.

But they do need to calculate the run rate, whether batting first or second. They also need to take into account the playing conditions.

Rohit Sharma did all those to perfection at Hamilton on Wednesday.

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With India A touring overseas regularly, Indian players are aware of varied playing conditions, for instance the shorter straight boundaries at Eden Park.

While the paying conditions remain the same for both contesting teams, it is the team that uses the conditions to their advantage usually wins.

It is where the mindset of players play a crucial role. The belief that the team management instills in a player shows on the brand of cricket newcomers’ display on the field.

Coach Ravi Shastri has clearly defined his policy of handling young players. He says, on the ground it is the players’ skills and mindset that defines their performances.

His job is to make players comfortable within the team environment. KL Rahul certainly looks at ease.

He has the ability to shift gears quickly. He has the ability to modulate the pace of his innings according to his partner’s form or  demand of the situation.

Iyer is gradually becoming a vital team player now. A typical Bombay cricketer, he has similarities with the great Dilip Vengsarkar.

Iyer, tall and erect, is an aggressive batsman who likes to play on the front foot but uses his back foot to his advantage when the ball is shot. He is not prone to attempting fancy shots and reverse sweeps. He keeps the scoreboard ticking and is always looking to steal singles within the 30-yard circle.

He and Rahul complement each other well. They have a set plan and are aware which bowlers to attack and whom to play out. It is a simple tried and tested plan but they seem to have grasped it quite quickly.

Iyer is also backed by Pandey in India’s middle order. Of late, Pandey has not being getting much opportunity with the bat.

With an eye on the T20 World Cup in October, the batting order is bound to change soon.

The team is also willing to view upcoming ODIs as part of their preparations for the mega event in October in Australia.

India have aimed at continuing their aggressive intent in the three-match ODI series that succeeds the ongoing T20Is.

Whatever the outcome in the ODI series, the Indian team would be trying to post healthy scores (in the region of 32-325 runs) in the 50-over matches.

After the New Zealand series, the Indian Premier League (IPL) would give players around 14 T20 games to fine-tune their T20 skills.

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Jasprit Bumrah’s return to the national team fold is a welcome sign. He still looks a bit rusty, which is understandable.

He hasn’t tried to bowl flat out, fearing the risk of a breakdown, and slowly tried to bowl himself into a rhythm.

India can’t afford to have their premier wicket taker injured, they already have Bhuvneshwar Kumar on the recovery table. India would struggle if anyone of Bumrah or Mohammed Shami joins Kumar in the injured list.

Shardul Thakur has got a look-in into the team because of injuries but he doesn’t look to be penetrative, leaking runs instead.

As India have comfortably won the T20 series, Indian could now afford to rest Rohit Sharma, push someone up to open the innings in place of him. That would free up a slot for Sanju Samson.

Coming back into the team after four years, Samson has just got a chance in only one T20 match. He was drafted into the senior team from India A, where atleast he was getting matches to hone his skills.

Overall, things are falling in pattern with fielding also improving. The team should maintain focus and look to attack systematically in T20s instead of trying to mindlessly hit over the top in the powerplays.

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Dr. Makarand is a cricket journalist for more than five decades contributing to Sportsweek, Sportstar, The Hindu and The Times of India. He did his PhD on the “History of Bombay cricket and its impact on Indian cricket”. He initiated the Talent Resource Development Wing (TRDW) for the BCCI to unearth talent from small towns. He was the CEO of the Baroda Cricket Association and consultant to KSCA.