New Zealand once again displayed their competitiveness in white ball cricket on Indian shores, but India had just that little bit extra as they pulled off an excellent win in the final Twenty20 game on Tuesday.
Even though it was only an eight-over game in Thiruvananthapuram, it was an exciting finish to two weeks of wonderful cricket. That we got a game in the Kerala capital after so much rain was a tribute to the tireless efforts of the ground staff, and just reward for a patient, packed house.
New Zealand’s desperation had shown in Rajkot when they bounced back strongly after the mauling in New Delhi. Their body language was positive, exemplified first by Colin Munro and then by the entire fielding unit with Trent Boult leading the way. Munro justified his elevation above Kane Williamson by making a bruising hundred and batting out the 20 overs, while Trent’s early blows derailed an Indian batting unit heavily dependent on the top three.
But credit to India for holding their nerve in the decider, like they had done in the final one-dayer in Kanpur too. India are beginning to stack up a reputation for being able to handle pressure extremely well, and that is a welcome sign for a team looking to become number one in all formats. It gladdens me no end to see the bowling group in operation. Jasprit Bumrah is bowling with his heart and head, like the No. 1 T20 bowler in the world should, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar is now a wily customer who fuses skill and experience beautifully.
The one that impresses me each time I see him bowl is Yuzvendra Chahal. He has both the craft and the brains and was brilliant on Tuesday. His line, well outside off, made it difficult for New Zealand’s right-handers to play the big shots across the line, especially with Virat Kohli setting fields to him similar to what he does when the two play for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
India, however, must revisit their approach to T20 cricket. The team is too reliant on the top three, which is not ideal in modern-day 20-over cricket. India must identify and persist with personnel in the middle-order so that they grow into their roles. It will be a work in progress for a while, but India must show some patience keeping the larger picture in mind.
There also needs to be clarity on M.S. Dhoni’s role in the T20 side. There is no doubt that he brings immense value as a wicketkeeper and as a mentor/guide to Virat on the field. I feel if India do stick with ‘MS,’ he must bat at number four because he then gets a greater chance to maximise his skills.
To see him bat at number seven in an eight-over game was a little sad, to say the least.