India vs SA, T20Is, 2022: Karthik, Bhuvneshwar, Hardik make sterling comebacks; Pant needs to rev up
India vs SA, T20I Takeaways: Dinesh Karthik, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya make sterling comebacks; Rishabh Pant needs to buckle up
The exciting five-match T20I series between hosts India and visitors South Africa finished on a disappointing note with the all-important decider at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru washed out with persistent rain on a murky Sunday evening. Both the sides had to be satisfied with a shared series which concluded on a 2-2 margin.
India & South Africa dish out some thrilling contests
The Proteas began the series with two back-to-back wins under their belt; in the first game, the century partnership between David Miller and Rassie van der Dussen helped South Africa chase down a mighty total successfully, while in the second game Heinrich Klaasen coming in as a replacement, overpowered India.
However, the hosts made a good return in the series winning two consecutive games; in the third game, thanks to their disciplined bowling, India defended an average total while in the fourth game, even after being behind the eight ball, they made a good comeback in the death overs to propel India to a match-winning score after which Avesh Khan and Harshal Patel did the rest with the ball.
India, who provided rest to their big names before the series, have benefitted in several ways from the series.
Let’s scan a few takeaways on their road to ICC T20 World Cup 2022.
Dinesh Karthik redeems himself in new Avatar
On a lighter note, India’s head coach, Rahul Dravid advised his lads that if knocking on the door wasn’t going to be enough for them to break into the team, then they should start banging the door down. Dinesh Karthik took the same road and hit the door so hard that he forced India’s selectors to include him as a specialist power-hitter in the death overs.
Karthik exhibited a tremendous array of jaw-dropping skills many a time for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 where he smacked 330 runs at a strike rate of 183.3, of which 76 per cent of runs came in the death overs (16-20) at a sky-scraping strike rate of 207.4.
Karthik showed a glimpse of those IPL knocks in the second T20I on a tough pitch in Cuttack. Coming in at a place where India were limping at 98-5 in the 14th over, he began in a scratchy way being on 8 off 14 balls; but he graced himself to 30 off 21 deliveries nailing 22 runs in just seven balls in the last few overs with the help of two fours and as many as sixes to supply India the late push.
In the fourth T20I in Rajkot, Karthik wreaked havoc with his 27-ball 55 in the death overs that was arranged with nine boundaries and couple of sixes. His maiden fifty powered India to a winning position that saw them level up 2-2 with one game to play.
“It’s very nice to see Karthik come and do what he’s picked to do,” Dravid praised Karthik. “So that’s good, it certainly opens up a lot more options for us going forward.”
Coming in at one of the hardest phases of the game, Karthik has justified his spot but his place for ICC T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia is still under clouds. He will be eager to carry his form on the Ireland tour with more colourful knocks.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar recharges powerplay capability
One of the main reasons for both India and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) doing well upfront with the ball is the ability of Bhuvneshwar Kumar taking powerplay wickets and not letting the opponents getting off to a flier.
In the second game in Cuttack, the pitch was two-paced with a bit of swing on offer and Bhuvneshwar Kumar offered India a real chance to defend a low score with his powerplay spell of 3/10 in three overs; it's another matter that India lost in the end. But all of Bhuvneshwar’s 18 balls in that period were samples of sheer class and art from a seasoned bowler on whom India can easily depend while Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel will dispense the death over job during the World Cup.
“Bhuvi was special in the whole series,” South Africa’s head coach Mark Boucher admitted about the expertise of Bhuvneshwar throughout the series. “He put us under pressure in the powerplay throughout.”
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has the most powerplay wickets amongst India’s pacers in T20Is since 2021. Bhuvi finished with six wickets in the series; out of these, four dismissals were effected in the powerplay overs, conceding runs at an economy of just 3.56. All of these numbers indicate that Bhuvneshwar Kumar has got back his lost charm and is ready to be handed the heavy burden of leading the bowling group.
The return of Hardik Pandya in the team
It would be a dream time to be in the shoes of Hardik Pandya; after missing a lot of cricket on both sides of ICC T20 World Cup 2021 due to various issues, Hardik in the last couple of months led a new IPL franchise, Gujarat Titans (GT) to a title win in their debut campaign. In IPL 2022, Hardik Pandya contributed with 487 runs in just 15 matches at a strike rate of 131.27, besides picking up eight wickets at an economy of 7.28.
Hardik sustained the same sort of form in the home T20I series against South Africa. In the first T20I, when the team required a late flurry, Hardik coming at number five cracked an unbeaten 12-ball 31 with the help of couple of boundaries and three sixes. In the third T20I, coming at a crucial stage of the game, he graced an unbeaten 21-ball 31 that consisted of four boundaries.
In the fourth T20I, Hardik changed his avatar; coming at number five inside the first seven overs, he started off slowly stitching a decent partnership with skipper Rishabh Pant to bail out India from danger. Finding his feet, Hardik smoked two huge sixes off Tabraiz Shamsi. In the penultimate over too, the all-rounder whipped a towering six over the deep mid-wicket region to end with a 31-ball 46 that was decorated with three boundaries and as many sixes. Hardik Pandya finished with 117 runs in four innings at a strike rate of 153.95 in the series.
The only problem is Hardik Pandya, the bowler and if he can begin to raise his skills in that department, India will be able to have six bowling options regularly going into ICC T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia.
Avesh Khan does decent job; Pant needs to buckle up
Avesh Khan, after his special performance in the last few seasons of the IPL, was awarded a place in the India side and he didn’t disappoint the selectors. However, he wasn’t in good shape in the first three games of the series against South Africa failing to open his account in the wicket’s column. Still, he was provided a long run and in the fourth T20I in Rajkot, Avesh impressed with figures of 4-18 in his four overs which include the scalps of Rassie van der Dussen and Dwaine Pretorius.
The only issue for India will be the cold form of Rishabh Pant, who is now one of the most essential all-format players for India besides being a full time IPL captain of Delhi Capitals (DC). Rishabh Pant, who scored runs at a strike rate of 162.66 in IPL 2019, saw a fall to 113.95 and 128.52 in the next two seasons. But the right-left combination in the middle overs that he brings to the table is vital for India. Given how Karthik is performing, Pant needs to buck up quickly.
India will now play a two-match T20I series starting on June 26 at The Village, Malahide in Dublin.