Death bowling in T20 cricket is pretty much a skill in itself, and most of India’s current bowlers are in the squad because they bowl well at the end stages of an innings, or have shown the ability to do so in the IPL- the format’s premier league competition.
You’d ordinarily say 55 off 4 is pretty defendable for India, especially if three of those four overs are to be bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harshal Patel. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case in Mohali, where those three overs went for a whopping 53 runs, allowing Australia a fine win while chasing a 200+ score.
It also underlined India’s dependence on Jasprit Bumrah- the MI speedster didn’t feature in this game, and also showcased the small margins in T20 cricket- Bhuvi and Harshal were almost unhittable at the death during the IPL, but have fluffed their lines in international cricket recently. The former struggled in the Asia Cup as well- his poor bowling at the death was a key reason for their defeats to Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and India will be hoping he gets his mojo back before the World Cup.
The SRH star’s death bowling abilities is probably what gets him a spot in the starting XI ahead of Deepak Chahar- the latter is a far better batsman and is pretty good in the opening stages with the ball, but can be a liability at the end, with batsman able to take him for easy runs.
Bhuvi’s two overs went for 15 and 16 respectively while Patel went for 22 in the 18th over, with Matthew Wade taking both bowlers to the cleaners. We didn’t see much of this Wade in the IPL, but Gujarat will be tempted to play him at 7 in the next one if he continues this rich run of form. The Australian keeper was 7 (9) at one stage, but finished with 45 (21), essentially striking at over 300 in the end part of his innings.
If Bhuvi continues to struggle, the door may open for Chahar, with Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh and Harshal probably being entrusted with the job at the death.
India of course didn’t help their own cause with the dropped catches and the missed review- young Cam Green was a big beneficiary, and the non-review didn’t help Yuzvendra Chahal’s confidence.
The Men in Blue have persisted with Chahal in recent months, but he has clearly been outbowled by his fellow spinners- Axar took 3/17 in his 4 here, while Chahal went for 42 in his 3.2 overs. Even Bishnoi and Ashwin seemed to do better at the Asia Cup. Chahal had to bowl one of the last five overs here, but it’s probably a representation of his own form, and the captain’s lack of belief in his abilities, that the ball was tossed to him only in the 20th over.
India might have sorted out their batting issues- everyone now appears to be proactively attacking, but bowling seems to be a worry now. Bumrah is an all-condition, all-format great, but is returning from injury. Will Harshal’s slower balls work on Australian pitches? They didn’t do so in Mohali, which probably is the pitch in India that most resembles conditions Down Under. If they struggle, India will have some big selection worries at next month’s WC.